As he looks upon the eleventh anniversary of his political party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), that he formed on 07 August 2004, Syed Ali Shah Geelani must be a sad and a dejected man. TeH came into existence because Geelani and his associates had parted ways with the Jama’at-e-Islami and needed a platform for their political identity.
After many decades in politics Geelani does not have anything substantial to show as an achievement. His children understood the futility of his cause a long time back and moved on to other professional pursuits. His legacy will now pass on to Masarat Alam, a man lacking in intellect and ideology and more suitable for rabble rousing politics than giving direction to a political outfit.
Geelani had in him the acumen to do something for his people. After all, he fought and won three elections before treading the path of fundamentalist right wing separatism. Even while holding on to his political ideology and principles he could have been of value to his people by following a moderate approach. Under such a circumstance he would have been in a better position to present his case.
Geelani remained Chairman of the APHC for long but in 2003, due to his rigid postures, abrasive politics and pro-Pakistan leanings that were anathema to his other colleagues, he was removed from the post. Not only that, the Hurriyat leadership blamed him of having weakened the cause by bringing about a division in its ranks. This is a political cross that Geelani continues to carry. He formed a separate entity the Hurriyat (Geelani) that never gained worthwhile political significance.
One big reason for his political down turn was his inability to reach out to a larger constituency in areas south of the Pir Panjal like Rajauri, Poonch, Reasi, Doda and Kishtwar. In fact, within the Kashmir valley also he paid no attention to areas like Uri, Gurez and Tangdhar. The Ladakh region being predominantly inhabited by Shia Muslims and Buddhists was, in any case, of no consequence to him. With this blinkered political approach there was no way that Geelani could have built the stature that is required to fight for a change in the political climate of the state that roots for freedom and democracy as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
In order to remain relevant Geelani proverbially “sold his soul to the devil.” He chose to become a stooge of Pakistan. He started singing the tune that Pakistan’s Inter services Intelligence (ISI) wanted him to sing and made pro-Pakistan and anti- India statements.
His pursuit for self determination for the people of Kashmir was overshadowed by his open bias towards Pakistan which created doubts about his political motives. In Kashmir, even the most strident advocates of freedom, whose numbers in any case is dwindling fast, do not look at Pakistan as an option to align with. Geelani thus stands isolated.
He has, over the years, condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and organised agitations on the hanging of the likes of Ajmal Kasab and more recently Yakub Memon, all known terrorists responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent people. The international community does not take kindly to such postures.
His political posture exposed him in front of his own people who did not wish to have anything to do with Pakistan and were sick of the cult of terrorism; Geelani, thus, got boxed in due to his self created contradictions and wrong political choices.
Geelani’s political world shattered around him when Pakistan, due to political expediencies dumped him unceremoniously. His recent decision to boycott the Eid Milan Party at the British High Commission in New Delhi is an indicator of his frustration and his political marginalisation.
TeH now makes some meek, ineffectual efforts to hold functions like blood donation camps and seminars to remain politically significant. The party has been unable to garner the necessary support for such efforts on the occasion of its recent anniversary. Geelani, of course, blames the government for the lack of response but the reality is that he is simply does not have the requisite following.
Geelani has condemned the recent attacks on the telecommunication towers and the spate of killings that followed. He has also called the recently floated Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) a terrorist outfit. This posture indicates his continued affinity with Syed Sallahuddin, the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and chairman of the United Jihad Council (UJC).
It is notable that LeI has been formed by Abdul Qayoom Najar, Sallahudin’s oldest and most trusted commander in Kashmir who has been expelled from the HM for “the murdering of innocent persons; indulgence in character assassination of Hurriyat leaders (Geelani) and attacks on the telecommunication set-up in the Valley.” This is a flimsy excuse if ever there was once! Since when has Syed Sallahuddin bothered about the killing of a few civilians from the telecommunication or any other sector for that matter?
The fact of the matter is that Najar has, for long, aspired to be the top commander on ground, a position that is invariably held by a terrorist of Pakistani origin. He also demanded more money, weapons and most importantly ammunition to run his operations which the UJC was unable to provide.
Thus Geelani and his few remaining supporters across the border are facing external pressure and internal revolt. The situation is very sensitive for them.
All is not lost for Geelani, he has the option to look at reality in the face and choose for his people a path that is progressive and secure, such a path would emerge only from acceptance of the Constitution of India and enjoyment of the rights and liberties enshrined therein.
A wise man is one who understands his folly and takes corrective action. Will Geelani introspect and follow the path of wisdom? In case he does he will have the chance of going down in history as a statesman who had only the good of his people in mind.
(Jasbir Sarai and a social activist aligned with Aam Aadmi Party)