Niloofar Qureshi

On Geelani Sahib’s Resignation

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While former Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani’s decision to quit Hurriyat may have come as a big surprise, but for him to do so “in view of the current state of the Hurriyat Conference” certainly isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. After all, for how can the leader of an organisation making tall claims of being the ‘true representative’ of Kashmiris and wielding unbridled authority with no accountability hope to survive indefinitely solely by fanning public emotions? Moreover, with Islamabad using the Hurriyat to manipulate the ‘self-determination’ campaign in accordance with its own Kashmir agenda, for how long can any self-respecting person continue serving as a minion?

In his “detailed letter to all constituents of the forum (Hurriyat),” Geelani sahib has mentioned several issues that are responsible for the sorry state of affairs within the separate conglomerate, both at home and in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). According to him, some of the more serious problems which the Hurriyat is facing are nepotism, infighting, financial irregularities, non-cooperation with party convener and a smear campaign to malign him. He also appears to be quite perturbed by the decision of Hurriyat’s PaK Chapter to form “a parallel structure by holding a self-styled Shura (consultation)” and is furious that the statements made by this illegal body (which according to him), was formed by “disregarding all moral, constitutional and organisational rules.” However, endorsement of these views during “a consultative meeting in Srinagar”seems to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back!

One can well understand how humiliated a proud man like Geelani would have felt by the ongoing intrigue, which saw him being side-lined by his own compatriots. However, why should this upset him so much when he himself has done the same thing in the past? In his letter, the former Hurriyat leader has stated that “In 2003, you forced me to take over the leadership of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Jammu and Kashmir and then to lead it for life.” While Geelani sahib is stating a fact, but at the same time he’s also showing signs of ‘selective amnesia’ while recounting this event. What he has missed to state is that he took charge after there was a split within the Hurriyat, which itself was the result of a conspiracy aimed at and removing the then Chairman Mohammad Abbas Ansari and suspending the then seven-member executive committee. Ironically, at that time, former Hurriyat Chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat had termed this move as “unwarranted, illegal and unconstitutional.”

Instead of being inspired by positive considerations in the overall interests of Kashmiris, the 2003 plot to unseat Ansari and suspend the Hurriyat’s highest decision-making body was prompted by petty motives. Geelani (who had recently been removed from the Hurriyat executive), was upset that his demand to expel Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Bilal Ahmed Lone for having fielded proxy candidates in the previous year’s assembly polls hadn’t been accepted.He was also very uncomfortable with Muslim Conference (MC) headed by former Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat. Thus, by ousting Ansari and disbanding the executive committee Geelani sahib saw to it that PC and MC were thrown out of Hurriyat. And since the entire conspiracy was masterminded by Geelani and executed in his Hyderpora residence, there are no prizes for guessing that the plotters unanimously decided to ‘formally’ approach Geelani to lead the new setup!

By saying that “the performance and irregularities of this forum (Hurriyat) were often overlooked in the name of ‘larger interest of the movement’,” Geelani sahib is just trying to defend his inability to put the Hurriyat house in order. On the performance front, despite being in existence for more than two and a half decades, the Hurriyat has failed to make any worthwhile progress in getting international support for the ‘K’ issue. As far as irregularities are concerned, it’s no secret that Hurriyat leaders (including Geelani sahib) have ended up making a decent fortune for themselves and their family members. And what’s surprising is that all this happened despite the economy being ravaged by incessant shutdowns called by the separatist conglomerate that earned Hurriyat the inglorious nickname of ‘Hartal Conference’!

Geelani sahib is absolutely right in saying that “I can’t bear the responsibility for my weaknesses and shortcomings as well as the performance of my colleagues in this forum.” However, the tragedy is that for all the years that Geelani sahib remained in the driver’s seat, the Hurriyat’s only claim to fame is that it perhaps qualifies as the world record holder for ordering the largest number of shutdowns observed anywhere on earth. In fact, the universal response of Hurriyat to anything and everything happening under the sun is to declare shutdowns and this practice became so rampant that during a media session in 2018, the harried KCCI vice-president Ammir said, “We appeal to the Hurriyat to think of an alternative to strikes.”But even this humble appeal affecting the masses went unheard.

In the preamble of his letter, Geelani has mentioned how “our movement is very valuable; it includes the selfless service of sincere workers, the spirit of sacrifice of people and the sacred blood of the martyrs. We call for the fidelity to this precious asset of the nation.” Yet, despite being the ‘conscience keeper’ of the Hurriyat’s lofty ideals and the one morally responsible for keeping the separatist conglomerate united, he unfortunately has done great disservice to the Hurriyat and people of Kashmir due to his inflated ego and autocratic style of functioning. For example, in 2011, he put the Hurriyat in a bind by insisting on holding funeral prayers for slain Al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden after unilaterally conferringthe title of “martyr” on him. Though he subsequently clarified that he had done so because “we as Muslims have a duty to offer funeral prayers for the dead,” but this reply was indeed an extremely weak justification. Consequently, the international community viewed Geelani sahib’s actions as the collective decision of the separatist conglomerate.

This caused immense harm to the Hurriyat’s image and the direct and immediate fallout was a visiting European Union (EU) delegation calling off its meeting scheduled with Geelani sahib in his capacity of being leader of Hurriyat. Such was Geelani sahib’s tight control over the Hurriyat that no one dared to question this ill-considered decision that denied the separatist conglomerate a chance to apprise the multi nation EU delegation of the situation in Kashmir. Similarly, even though the first objective in APHC constitution specifies use of “peaceful struggle to secure for the people of Jammu and Kashmir the exercise of the right of self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter and the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council,” Geelani sahib on his own has violated this clause by declaring that “Guns can be a permanent solution for J&K.” His repeated approval of violence to achieve ‘self-determination’ has equated Hurriyat with terrorism!

While Geelani sahib’s absence will surely be felt in separatist politics, but there’s no need to see the patriarch’s departure as the end of the ‘self-determination’ movement in Kashmir, because no matter how proficient an individual may be, but he (or she) can never be above an organisation! But a small suggestion for whoever steps into Geelani sahib’s shoes- please be less self-centred and more responsive to public sensitivities.

The writer is a New Delhi based columnist and can be reached at  [email protected]

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