The arrest of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Sunday is being seen as a definite shift in what passes as New Delhi's thinking on Kashmir. Analysts are already talking of a new resolve not to let Pakistan and its proxies come in the way of the election process in Jammu and Kashmir.
That Mr. Geelani, like other Hurriyat leaders, have been receiving illegal financial assistance from Pakistan and other foreign sources has always been the received wisdom and reasonable proof of funds flowing from Pakistan have always been talked about in knowledgeable circles. Farooq Abdullah, and his son have never hesitated to publicly call the Hurriyat leaders as "Pakistani agents''.
When Mr. Yaseen Malik was arrested way back in March, many analysts were surprised as to why Mr. Geelani had been let off the hook thus far. But with the murder of the moderate Hurriyat leader, Abdul Gani Lone, allegedly by the Pakistani agents, the centre had to show its resolve to come down firmly on the hardliners headed by Mr. Geelani so that their sway over Hurriyat could be curbed and put to check.
Geelani has over the years tried to get the All Parties Hurriyat Conference to follow Islamabad’s diktat and has been accused of foiling attempts by moderate Hurriyat leaders to come to any understanding with Delhi.
So, the raids formally spearheaded by the Income-Tax Department
Apart from the balance of power within the Hurriyat, the murder of Mr. Lone had managed to successfully hush all those voices which were seemingly coming around to the election option and the central efforts were seen as doomed for failure. So this "muscle-flexing" as a signal of its determination to go ahead with the poll plank.
It is significant that the MORI survey put Hurriyat support at 22 percent, compared to 29 percent for the Congress and 25 percent for BJP as compared to mere 18 percent for National Conference.
With the murder of Lone, the aggressiveness of National Conference had come to the fore with Omar Abdullah publicly questioning the need to provide enhanced security to the Hurriyat leaders. NC has the most to lose in political sphere should the moderates in the Hurriyat were to agree to take part in any electoral process and has made no secret of its opposition to any accommodation or understanding between the centre and the Hurriyat, going to the extent of telling New Delhi that it is free to use central forces to protect these leaders.
With the international pressure on Hurriyat to participate in elections, the centre too is not averse to playing tough.
With Geelani out of the scene for sometime at least, it would be easier for the government to get negotiations underway. For the moment, the Hurriyat is putting up a united front and has called a strike on Tuesday, but as a senior official put it: "It is time for the government to take a tough stand and stop dilly-dallying. We have to crack down on the militants’ support bases at home. Otherwise, getting Pakistan to stop infiltration would be a meaningless exercise."