How Did Media Comment Upon Syed Ali Geelani’s Resignation?

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SRINAGAR: Syed Ali Geelani, Kashmir’s ailing separatists who is being seen as the hawk in Kashmir’s ideologically split politics, resigned from the Hurriyat Conference, he founded in 2003. The decision was seen as a major political development in Kashmir post-August 2019.

Syed Ali Geelani at his native village in November 2018 after his son in law passed away. KL: Image: Bilal Bahadur

At least three major Delhi based newspapers saw the event as important enough to be discussed in the editorials. Read how the top editors see Geelani’s resignation.

A Reset In Kashmir Policy
With the external front fragile, get the internal house in order
Hindustan Times
July 01, 2020

Earlier this week, the hardline Kashmiri secessionist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, quit the All Party Hurriyat Conference, the umbrella formation of separatist organisations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). His resignation is being widely seen as a function of both his old age (he is 91) and internal factional differences — he also attacked the Hurriyat leaders based on the other side of the border in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Many in New Delhi have viewed it as a setback for separatist politics in the Valley. It is true that Mr Geelani has been a staunch pro-Pakistan and Islamist figure; he has justified the violence and terror that has been wreaked on Kashmir for decades; and if he is forced to retreat from the political sphere — for whatever reason — this is good news.

But it is important to recognise that Mr Geelani is not just an individual — but a thought. He represents a mindset that sees India as an “occupation force” and there are many other emerging figures, belonging to the same strand, such as Masarat Alam Bhat, who will seek to lead this school of thought. Delhi has to adopt a two-pronged approach. There can be no dialogue with those who advocate secession and violence. The might of the intelligence-security machinery must be used to deal with all such elements and a clear message that there can be no compromise on India’s territorial integrity and constitutional values must be sent out.

At the same time, this is also a ripe moment to re-examine the Kashmir policy. The constitutional changes of August 5, 2019 — effective nullification of Article 370, re-organisation of the state, and its dilution into a Union Territory — and measures such as a crackdown on political activity and detention of leaders has alienated a large segment of moderates and pro-India people. Given the external situation — the stand-off at the India-China border, and the fragile situation on the Line of Control — it is crucial for India to get its house in order. For this, New Delhi must release democratic leaders still under detention (including Mehbooba Mufti); begin a process of political engagement with mainstream leaders, and, while making it clear that Article 370 is history, offer eventual restoration of statehood to J&K as a mechanism for bringing all pro-India forces on board; and pave the way for elections. To take on external adversaries, India must cover its domestic bases. And given its strategic location, Kashmir must rank at the top of this domestic reset.

As Geelani Exits
It’s a moment for moderate and mainstream parties and politics in the Valley that is waiting to be seized.
The Indian Express
July 1, 2020

Curiously, much of Geelani’s ire is reserved for the Hurriyat based in PoK.

The decision by Syed Ali Shah Geelani to step down from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is an important milestone in Kashmir and in the separatist strain of its politics. It also marks a turning point for the Hurriyat, part of which is based in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The resignation of the 90-year-old Geelani, who was “chairman for life” of the APHC, appears to have been prompted by how matters have unfolded in the Valley after August 5, 2019, when the Centre stripped J&K of its special status and bifurcated the state into two union territories. His long illness also appears to have played a role. The resignation letter laments the failure of leaders of the APHC constituents to speak out against the changes made in Kashmir. He makes no mention of the moderate APHC faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who, along with Yaseen Malik of the JKLF, had joined hands with Geelani in the protests that followed the 2016 killing of Burhan Wani.

Geelani at a 2018 press conference in which Ashraf Sehraie was appointed as the head of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the party that Geelani founded after leaving Jamat-e-Islami KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Curiously, much of Geelani’s ire is reserved for the Hurriyat based in PoK. He has spared only its leader, Abdullah Geelani, who he has declared “would continue to perform the duties as my representative” on the other side of the LoC, while flaying others in the PoK-based Hurriyat for “ connecting family members” with power structures in Pakistan, for infighting, financial misappropriation and other misdeeds. From the letter, it seems as if Geelani wishes to leave this act of rebellion against his own party as the last memory of his politics in a fraught moment in Kashmir. Be that as it may, the Hurriyat leadership is now up for grabs, and the rumblings in its corridors, which began to be heard since the National Investigation Agency began enquiring into the finances of several of its leaders and their associates two years ago, will grow louder. Separatism may still be alive in the Valley, but there is now a vacuum in the separatist leadership.

This should have been an opportune moment for moderate and mainstream parties and politics in the Valley. Unfortunately, Delhi has followed an older playbook in seeking to undermine and erode the legitimacy of parties and leaders that espouse moderate and mainstream views. While Farooq and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference have seemed tongue-tied after their release, Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party continues to be detained under the stringent Public Safety Act. While elimination of militancy is an important element in the Centre’s Kashmir policy, it also needs to think about its next political steps in Kashmir.

Hawk’s Diminishing Clout
Geelani is seen by everyone in J&K and in Pakistan as Pakistan’s “first and last” man in Kashmir
The Asian Age
July 1, 2020

The 91-year-old Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been in poor health for long, made Kashmir valley gasp (although not in horror) when on Monday he announced that he was quitting his own faction of the Hurriyat Conference, which he had established in 2003 upon breaking away from the then 10-year-old composite All Parties Hurriyat Conference — an amalgam of separatist parties, tendencies and factions — led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Geelani is seen by everyone in J&K and in Pakistan as Pakistan’s “first and last” man in Kashmir.

The redoubtable patriarch of pro-Pakistan politics in the Valley, noted for issuing strike calendars that often led to a coercive atmosphere and street violence, did not “dissociate” himself from politics for health reasons.

Questions would not have been asked if he had. But since that’s not the case, prominent sections of the local media have carried scathing commentaries on the larger ideas emanating from Mr Geelani.

The Modi government can learn something from this, and reach the understanding that the only worthwhile takeaway from Kashmir is that the valley is not pro-Pakistan in its make-up, and that religious affinity in this case is of no relevance.

Geelani’s Resignation – Reason And Reaction

In a note to his constituents, the pro-Pakistan ideologue has accused his PoK-based followers of becoming self-seekers and of Hurriyat (Geelani) followers in the Valley of endorsing that trend. In short, Mr Geelani’s followers have been condemned by their master as being corrupt.

If the leader had been aware of this, as he acknowledges, then why did he not do anything about it? This is the question being asked in Kashmir.

The possibility of change in the political landscape with Mr Geelani gone will naturally depend on the actions of political actors and, notably, of the government.

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