Will Geelani’s Exit Effect Change In J&K’s Separatist Discourse?
Will Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s resignation from Hurriyat effect change in Kashmir’s separatist discourse?
The Quint DAILY
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The oldest and the most prolific Kashmiri separatist, Syed Ali Geelani, has resigned from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an amalgam of over two dozen separatist and pro-Pakistan outfits, which has offices in both parts of Kashmir.
Citing ‘indiscipline’ and ‘unconstitutional activities’ of unnamed APHC constituents, Geelani, on Monday, 29 June, also released an audio message in which he announced ‘complete separation’ from the amalgam.
“Due to the prevailing situation of the APHC, I am announcing complete separation from this forum. In this regard, I have written a detailed letter to all the constituents of the forum. May Allah be our protector and our defender,” Geelani says in the audio message.
Two communications on the letterhead of ‘Syed Ali Geelani, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyat Conference’, under Reference Numbers APHC 2020/1 and APHC/D/41, circulated along with Geelani’s audio message, drew mixed reactions on social media.
Many social media users pointed out that the ailing Hurriyat patriarch was only resigning from the APHC. The amalgam also comprises of the Hurriyat faction of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir’s chief cleric, who has remained silent on the happenings in Kashmir post Article 370’s abrogation. Others said Geelani, having ‘failed to deliver’, and being now on the verge of death, was only shirking his responsibility as the main proponent of secessionism in Kashmir.
The Crisis Within Hurriyat
To many observers, Geelani’s resignation has effected a significant change in the separatist discourse in Kashmir.
“This is an outcome of the 5 August move and the geo-strategic changes taking place in Asia where an aggressive China, the ‘all-weather friend’ of Pakistan, has taken on India in Ladakh.”Senior political commentator, University of Kashmir (on condition of anonymity).
In his detailed letter to the AHPC constituents, Geelani says that following the abrogation of Article 370, he had “tried hard” to reach out to “those Hurriyat leaders who were not in jail” – but his efforts didn’t bear fruit.
Taking on the APHC wing based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Geelani says it has got “merely representational character”, and the leaders in this wing are not empowered to take “individual or collective decisions.”
The separatist hawk says in the letter that “in the past two years, lots of complaints have been received” against the members of PaK chapter of APHC, and a “process of accountability” was set in motion during which action was taken against some members, and inquiries have been going on against others.
Hurriyat Leaders Avoiding Anti-Govt Comments
“Your constituents (in PaK) took it as an insult and started calling meetings on their own, after which it was decided to suspend the managing body (of APHC PaK chapter). To escape accountability, these members started doing propaganda (sic),” Geelani continues in the letter.
The letter states:
“They violated all the moral and organisational obligations by forming a body of Hurriyat. Instead of objecting to these unconstitutional happenings, your members called a Shura Council meeting in Srinagar and you legitimised this unconstitutional body by participating in the meeting.”
Geelani then writes that the members who attended the meeting told the participants that it was being convened at his (Geelani’s) behest – “You fell for this dirty conspiracy and naked lie even though I had never called the meeting.”
The Hurriyat leader then refers to the events post 5 August 2019, when the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was read down by the central government, and the erstwhile state was downgraded into two union territories, amid an unprecedented security clampdown and the detention of political leaders and activists, seen as being anti-government.
While the Hurriyat leaders – including Mirwaiz, Bilal Lone, Abdul Ghani Bhat and others – are not presently in detention, they have stayed away from making any statements that may be seen as anti-government.
“Now, when the sword of accountability is looming over your heads and you are called to explain the charges of financial irregularities and corruption,” Geelani says in the letter, “you formed the council and also attended the meeting” – despite the prevailing tensions and government restrictions.
Pointing out his efforts to reach the Hurriyat leaders amidst his deteriorating health, Geelani accuses the APHC constituents of “running away from your responsibilities” after the abrogation of Article 370, and failing to “lead the nation at this time of great crisis... to guide people and take necessary steps to counter the ‘Palestinisation’ of Kashmir.”
‘Unfair’ Mockery Of Mirwaiz
The crisis that the APHC, an amalgam of nearly two dozen separatist outfits formed in 2003, finds itself in, is going to unravel in the coming days, as the voices of the leadership crisis and missing accountability gain momentum.
It is also being rumoured that Pakistan may not be happy with the way in which the Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir, particularly those who are not under detention, have reacted to the developments in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, and heads may roll in the coming days.
In the past, many allegations have surfaced against the Hurriyat leaders, especially with regard to the issue of availing seats reserved by medical colleges in Pakistan for students of Kashmir, for their own kith and kin.
Geelani’s resignation comes a day after a video clip of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq went viral.
Several video clips of Mirwaiz delivering a sermon at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid (inaugurating construction work on homes of the poor that were razed in a fire in Srinagar among others) were made into a one-minute video clip with a song from the film ‘Three Idiots’ playing in the background, and was released on social media.
‘Behti Hawa Sa Tha Wo, Udti Patang Sa Tha Wo, Kahan Gaya Usse Doondo’ (Like floating air, like flying kite, where did he vanish, find him), the song goes, as Mirwaiz is seen delivering a speech to devotees at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, where he used to deliver sermons at the Friday prayers.
One Facebook user, Mir Faheem wrote:
“Playing a Bollywood song with the footage of the revered Jamia Masjid... is outrageous and shameful.”
He added, “I am not a Mirwaiz fan, but those looking for him exclusively should look for others too. Selective targeting is downright cowardice.”
(Jehangir Ali is a Srinagar-based journalist. He tweets at @gaamuk. )
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