The current crisis in Kashmir has blurred the distinction between moderates and hardliners in the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, is now echoing hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's demand that Kashmir be acknowledged by the central government as a "dispute".
This is the first time the Mirwaiz has said that a dialogue with the central government can take place if it acknowledges Kashmir as a dispute. He had never set such a pre-condition before. But his language at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday marked a hardening of the moderate leader's stand on a dialogue on Kashmir.
Unilke Geelani, however, he did not describe the situation as an "international" dispute, leaving Pakistan out of the picture for the time being.
"India has to acknowledge Kashmir as a dispute and initiate positive, serious and result-oriented talks to resolve it," the Mirwaiz said at the rally.
Besides, the Mirwaiz had earlier presented four pre-conditions for talks with the central government. These were demilitarisation of civilian areas, release of political prisoners, a halt to human rights abuse by soldiers, and repeal of "black laws" such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act.
But that was in the past. Following the outbreak of public anger in the Valley over the killing of 65 civilians — mostly youths — in firings by security forces to quell protests, the Mirwaiz spoke of the Kashmiri people's "right to self-determination". This too is a demand that hardliners led by Geelani have been making for years.
Commenting on the hardening stand of the moderates in the Hurriyat, Geelani said, "I do not think we are ideologically different from each other. Everyone is for the right to self-determination."
But Geelani was circumspect on the possibility of a dialogue with the Centre in the backdrop of the convergence of views within the Hurriyat Conference.
"When we were united, New Delhi's attitude was no different. So, unification hardly matters," he said.