By: Rawoof Zargar
The recent purported resignation of SAS Geelani did not create ripples in Kashmir as reaction to it by the people of Kashmir was less than mild. One could not have imagined the resignation of SAS Geelani a decade back when he ruled the roost and was undoubtedly the most followed political figure in Kashmir and adjoining Chenab valley. His mere audio message was enough to shut every inch of the valley. His resignation would have caused tremors in the political landscape of Kashmir but what changed during these few years that this impeccable leader has gone into oblivion is to be thought out particularly by the leader himself who is suffering from advanced form of dementia if reports are to be believed.
Qaid, as he is famously known, does not need an introduction at least not in this part of the world, born in British era, completing his education from the Punjab University of then British India now in Pakistan. He also contested elections and has been the member of legislative assembly three times, then being discontented with the infamous rigging of 1987 elections and losing faith in the democratic process of India, Geelani became a strong votary of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.
The people of Kashmir have always been in search of the honest, dedicated and charismatic leader to lead them and to fill the void and Geelani was the best bet looking at his popularity. During the bloody decade of 90s when gun decided everything in Kashmir leaders like Geelani had little to contribute, every gun wielding man was leader in himself. Come the new millennium of 21st century Kashmir was little peaceful as people were fed up with the gun culture and were looking for some other peaceful means. Business was going on as usual but the series of successive unfortunate events triggered and broke the uncomfortable silence in the Kashmir. First, the uprising of 2008 with the proposal of transfer of the land (Art 370 intact) to the Shri Amarnath Board, Kashmir was simmering with discontent. People of Kashmir were feeling betrayed once again. Large processions were taken out against the disguised unilateral decision of land transfer. This saw the strong emergence of the leader Geelani who promulgated the so called calls and chalos (marches) and people followed him blindly with utmost faith.
It was a very violent period during which hundreds of people mostly school going children lost their lives, stones were responded with pellets and bullets. The agitation furthered the divide between Kashmir and Jammu. Some organizations in Jammu tried to block the roads leading to Srinagar, a perpetual economic blockade. This added fuel to the fire wherein trading community called for the opening of Muzzafarabad trade route which led to more violent protests which resulted in killing of few notable leaders. Soon the protests and vigor fizzled out and nothing notable was achieved except the martyrdom of hundreds of innocent Kashmiri people, all because of the failed leadership.
Then came the infamous rape and murder case of Aasia and Nelofar and again the Bab (grand old man) as he is famously known took the reins of mass protests in his hands and again he failed to capitalize. The dust was yet to settle, came the incident of the fake encounter where three innocent civilians were lured for a porter job and killed in brutal fake encounter and were passed on as foreign terrorists which was also accompanied by the death of an innocent cricket playing kid who was killed by a teargas shell and Kashmir was yet again burning and again the SAS Geelani took the charge of the movement but again he failed to deliver.
When history will look back at SAS Geelani “the leader” I am afraid he will have nothing to show except for few bandhs, chalos and calendars , no accomplishment, no contribution moreover no vision to follow for the common masses and upcoming leadershipif ever there is one.The saying of the Alexander the great aptly chronicles SAS Geelani: “I am not afraid of the army of tigers led by the sheep but yes I am afraid of army of the sheep led by the tiger.” SAS no doubt was followed by the army of brave young tigers but the leader failed them and that too miserably.
When the veteran nonagenarian failed to show any results to his credit the obvious happened, he disappeared from the political scene of Kashmir. Number of factors contributed to his downfall which I believe has turned once indispensable leader into an insignificant entity. First and foremost was the lack of political vision and political acumen. No doubt SAS Geelani was a full time politician and knew all the nitty-gritties of politics but to lead a mass of millions and to sustain the vigor of masses you need more than that,which he was totally lacking. Nothing was learnt from the contemporary struggles or struggles of the past, there was no vision, no strategy was chalked out. It was all about hartals and chalos. People were obviously fed up after some point of time and yearned for other alternatives but there were none in SAS Geelani’s kitty.
Moreover SAS had fallen in love with his so called hardliner image and thus failed to evolve. Every time he was approached by the Govt of India, whether upfront or track 2, he refused to enter into any sort of negotiations. Number of opportunities were lost during the UPA Govt. If unofficial sources are to be believed the then Govt was ready to grant full autonomy to the state but it was all wasted by the hardline attitude of SAS. This reminds of amaranth row where the then prime minister Manmohan Singh sent a written invitation to every stakeholder and said dialogue is the only wayout to lasting peace and we are ready to listen and accommodate anybody who does not practice violence. However, Geelani’s stubbornness wasted the opportunity.
SAS has only himself to blame because people were associated with him and he had emerged much bigger a name than the Hurriyat. He should have risen to the occasion above the petty politics and delivered for the people, rather than bargaining for few medical seats in Pakistan. Besides everyone remembers the historic day of when addressing at least a million people at TRC groumds, Geelani said: “toi chiva mehh leader manan” (do u accept me as your leader). The procession melted away, distraught.
The final nail in the coffin was the change in the leadership at the centre, the RSS backed Bhartiya Janta Party does not believe in dialogue, reconciliation, for them it is my way or highway. The full integration of the state into the union of India has been in their manifesto and they are fulfilling the dream of their icon Shamaprasad Mukherjee.
May be SAS Geelani will have his version of the story as well and will live long to share it with us, until then we believe the leader has lost his luster and has turned frombeing the most significant figure to almost insignificant.
– The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org