Twelve years after Syed Ali Shah Geelani went his own way, the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir has witnessed another major split.
Shabir Shah, a senior separatist leader and the leader of the Democratic Freedom Party, has parted ways with chairman of the Hurriyat Conference and Valley's head cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Shah and other important leaders, including Nayeem Khan of the National Front and Azam Inquilabi of Mahaz-e-Azadi, have announced the formation of a third faction of the Hurriyat Conference, calling it the "Real Hurriyat".
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Shah alleged, "We are the real Hurriyat. We have maintained distance from the Mirwaiz leadership for the last one-and-a-half years, as many anti-freedom activities were taking place, which is totally against the Hurriyat Conference's constitution."
"We are the real Hurriyat, as we have given our lives for the freedom struggle," said Shah, who spent more than 20 years in prison after the separatist movement started in the Valley in 1989.
In the highly-public split, the leaders accused the Mirwaiz of being "anti-people".
The split happened after the Mirwaiz's recent letter to the Hurriyat's convener in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK), Yousuf Naseem, asking him not to entertain the leaders as part of the Hurriyat.
The Mirwaiz, without naming the leaders, had accused them of "violating the amalgam's constitution and resorting to indiscipline."
A joint statement the leaders termed the Mirwaiz's letter "highly outrageous and an effort to mislead the freedom-loving people of Kashmir".
"The letter by the Mirwaiz was written to restrict the freedom movement. It was shameful and we will not tolerate this childish act," the joint statement reads. "The letter was not based on facts, as it blamed the leaders of being undisciplined, while the fact is that we have differences with the Hurriyat based on principles and movement."
"Some people are treating the Hurriyat as their personal property, and violate the Hurriyat constitution at their will. Such elements always gave a cold shoulder to our suggestions regarding resolving the differences," the statement reads. "By accusing the genuine Hurriyat leaders of being undisciplined, they can't silence the genuine voice."
"The Hurriyat became a platform only after priceless sacrifices offered by the people of Kashmir. This platform had to be used for taking the movement to its logical conclusion," the statement said. "It is not possible for us to see those who violate the Hurriyat constitution in the amalgam."
The separatist leaders also alleged that the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat created confusion over dialogue. "Some elements advocate triangular talks and bilateral talks, while some suggest secret talks, which is against the Hurriyat constitution," they said. "As per the Hurriyat constitution, the solution to the Kashmir issue can only be found through trilateral dialogue or through the implementation of United Nations' resolutions."
The statement added that it was ironic that some people in the amalgam even termed UN resolutions as "inapplicable and outdated". "People within the amalgam have been violating the Hurriyat constitution time and again. The same people sabotaged the process of contact with people. They also played their role to ensure the closure of Hurriyat offices in eight districts," it alleged.
Shah also accused the Hurriyat (M) of sabotaging the agreement of unity with Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani in 2008.
"Some elements within the amalgam want sacrifices to go waste. The movement is unsafe in the hands of these leaders," he alleged.
Shah, however, said they have not decided about the future course yet. This includes a possibility of joining the Geelani group.
The Mirwaiz group however chose not to react to the accusation by Shah. "We have decided not to react," said spokesperson Shahid-ul-Islam.