Geelani Resigns

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An ailing hawk signed out of an alliance that he set up a decade back and it is being seen as a major development in the vertically split political space of Kashmir, reports Tasavur Mushtaq

Syed Ali Geelani with his two sons at the funeral of his son in law in Sopore

After a long lull, the separatist movement in Kashmir came back to the newsrooms on June 30. Reason: the resignation of the face of Kashmir’s separatist politics for decades, old and ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani from his Hurriyat Conference. He was heading the conglomerate for the past 17 years and aspired to lead it for the rest of his life.

Fragile and at the fag end of his life, Geelani with his resignation brought separatists back into the discourse. The resignation reduced Geelani to “individual fighting for an ideology.” His exit from Hurriyat has triggered a new debate in Kashmir.

In his resignation letter, Geelani blamed the other constituents of his Hurriyat faction for forcing to take the step. The two-page letter to members revealed the reasons for his dissociation from the conglomerate he headed for several years. He mentioned “indiscipline, lack of commitment, and corruption” as reasons for his decision.

Geelani wrote that while he had tried his best to contact “un-arrested members of the Hurriyat” while he was under house arrest following revocation of Article 370 on August 5 last year, “no one responded.”

“I sent messages to you (Hurriyat leaders) through various means so the next course of action could be decided but all my efforts were in vain. Now that the sword of accountability is hanging over your heads for the financial and other irregularities, you thought of calling the advisory committee meeting despite persecution and pandemic,” he wrote.

Geelani accused Pakistan-based separatist leadership of “nepotism, participation in the state apparatus, internal rivalry, and corruption”. Back in the valley, he accused his constituents of insubordination.

“You also supported the unconstitutional decisions of your representatives (based in Pakistan) and rallied together in this regard,” the letter read.

Taking a potshot at the Hurriyat leadership in Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), he accused them of using their influence to get close to the power corridors in Pakistan. He, however, made it clear that Abdullah Gillani, reportedly his relative, also based in Pakistan, will continue to represent him in PaK and all other international forums.

Geelani insisted that age and ailments are no deterrents for him. “Old age, physical weakness and various ailments do not mean the weakening of my soul. Neither the power of my heart and mind has ceased nor has there been any weakness in my spirit of freedom. I would continue to fight against the Indian imperialism till my last breath,” he wrote in the letter.

In the concluding part, he wrote: “I am thankful to those people who helped me take an important decision at the fag end of my life. If I have committed any mistakes, or hurt anyone by my words or deeds, I request for your forgiveness.”

Geelani also accused Hurriyat constituents of hatching “conspiracy and resorting to lies against him” and also teaming up with the Hurriyat chapter in PaK, which had targeted him. “Instead of reprimanding them, you called a meeting in Srinagar and ratified their stand,” the letter reads.

Response

Commentaries in major newspapers suggested that the resignation is a key development and needs to be ceased for framing the follow-up policy. However, Radha Kumar of the Delhi Policy Group think tank, who also served as a government interlocutor in Kashmir in 2010, was quoted by the Arab News to have said that Geelani’s resignation at this stage “raises more questions.”

“So long as Kashmir is a dispute, no Kashmiri can be rated as irrelevant. The beat of hearts never changes, despite the fact that your tongue speaks a different word,” Professor Abdul Gani Bhat is quoted saying to the Arab News.

Senior Kashmir based journalist Mufti Islah took to Twitter to comment, “Separatism was rendered ineffective in the last few years for two reasons. One, Centre cracking the whip instilled fear and inertia among the ranks. Two the decay seeped within sans any imaginative activity. Also, the discontinuing of five-star separatism during (the) Cong era.”

The Making Of Hurriyat’s

In 1993, Geelani along with other separatist leaders became one of the founding members of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). In 2003, he left the conglomerate founded in 1993 as he alleged some of the members had floated proxy candidates in assembly elections, which the Hurriyat boycotts. He separated and formed his faction with more than half of the constituents, leaving the others to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. It eventually led the vertical split in the separatist camp – all parties had two factions, one going with so-called moderates and another with the hawk.

Geelani (centre) with Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq

A year later, he also left the now-banned Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the largest socio-religious outfits in Jammu and Kashmir, to focus solely on political activities. He also founded the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which became the main constituent of his faction of Hurriyat.

An ardent believer in the idea of Pakistan, Geelani also opposed the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Health Report

Since the beginning of 2020, rumours about Geelani’s health have abounded. So much so that at one point in time, the separatist camp had plans in place for the funeral.

It was February when the Pakistan office of the All Party Hurriyat Conference issued a press release stating that Geelani, who is under house arrest, is not responding to treatment. A detailed statement issued from PaK gave detailed of his health and the plans for his funeral. This triggered panic in Kashmir.

Though the government warned people not to speculate and rejected the claims made, but The Economic Times reported the administration had already discussed the ‘G-plan’, which was apparently the code for instructions to be followed in case of Geelani’s death. Aged and ailing, Geelani is suffering from multiple ailments. During harsh winters in Kashmir, he used to move to Delhi but has stopped this practice for the past few years now.

In 2007, his doctors said that “he has approximately one year to live due to kidney cancer.” Reacting to this, he had told Kashmir Life “history has seen many people claiming to be gods but God they are not. I am still alive, it’s God’s grace.”

After Geelani’s resignation made major news, separatists are gradually returning to the news. Mirwaiz led Hurriyat’s Bilal Lone issued a statement highlighting “ “uncertainty and repression” and demanded “immediate release of the conglomerate’s chairman and other prisoners detained since August 5, last year.”

“Mirwaiz has for the past two decades been repeatedly put under arbitrary house arrest by authorities but this time for the longest period. Authorities should revoke his arbitrary house arrest immediately and set the Mirwaiz free. His civil rights and liberties should be restored,” Lone said.

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