With senior resistance leader Yasin Malik’s arrest in March last year, New Delhi put a halt to the activities of the resistance politics in Kashmir, which, in any case, were seriously restricted as a result of widespread crackdown on the resistance camp spearheaded by India’s premier investigative agency, NIA, which led to the arrest of many first and second rung leaders and hundreds of activists.
Of the three front-line leaders — the other two being an ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a reluctant Mirwaiz Umar Farooq — only Malik was proactive in leading protests, organising sit-ins and running other political activities.
The tectonic August 5 decision, when the BJP regime struck down Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution, was preceded by a tense, aggressive build-up that included an all-out siege of the civilian population and imprisonment and house arrest of a number of political leaders.
Geelani’s resignation controversy and the subsequent reaction of New Delhi, it seems, has infused a new lease of life in the otherwise inert resistance politics of Kashmir
The curfew and communication blockade was so strict that it was almost impossible to send out a statement, let alone coming on the streets to protest.
So when the seniormost resistance leader of Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, resigned from Hurriyat chairmanship on June 28, it was but natural that the resignation letter and an attached two-page memo that explained why he resigned took Kashmir, New Delhi and Islamabad by surprise.
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PR machinery in overdrive
While the development was debated with a cautious approach in Kashmir and Pakistan, the PR machinery in New Delhi went into an overdrive and a host of statements started coming out from BJP politicians besides a multitude of stories carried by the media.
Most of these stories run by the ever-creative sections of the national media are mostly untrue or at best half-truths and the few ones that are true have got nothing to do with Geelani’s resignation.
Geelani’s resignation was preceded by a major development in Pak-administered Kashmir when his right hand man Abdullah Geelani was replaced by Hussain Khateeb as the Convener of APHC for Pakistan and Pak-administered Kashmir. The prompting, in all likelihood, came from the dissenting group within APHC based in the Valley.
Geelani’s sacrifices are undisputed but he is also known for his grudgy nature. While he could have drafted his resignation letter judiciously, he chose a more scathing approach.
Ironically, the accusations that Geelani has levelled against some of his former colleagues are exactly what many of them have been levelling against him and his coterie.
All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an umbrella organisation of various Kashmiri political and religious groups, was formed in 1993. A decade later APHC split on ideological differences. One faction (moderate) was led by Mirwaiz Omar and the other (hardline) by Geelani
Accusations and counter-accusations
While he accuses the Hurriyat members of inaction, many among them say he has been silent for a couple of years because of the NIA crackdown and the subsequent arrest of his son-in-law and the grilling of some other family members.
Another grievance is that Geelani’s elder son Naeem Geelani, a medical doctor, who came to Kashmir after 12 years in 2018 and became his father’s alter ego, isn’t his rightful successor, as is being touted.
There’s also a feeling that the acerbic note attached to the resignation letter is Naeem’s handiwork. Naeem has a sway over his father, something that doesn’t go down well with rest of the leadership.
None of these grievances, however, are anywhere close to how New Delhi tries to portray them. The reshuffle in Hurriyat is a practical approach to the current realities and only an attempt at ending the stagnation and taking the movement forward.
Both Geelani and Sehrai put out hard hitting statements against India after the media onslaught, reiterating their commitment to the Kashmir movement and dismissing the Indian media’s coverage as propaganda.
Sehrai in his statement said that there was no rift between him and Geelani as long as the latter was in good health. He accused the “cult” of not allowing them to meet, a bold allusion to the clique headed by Naeem Geelani.
Geelani’s resignation controversy and the subsequent reaction of New Delhi, it seems, has infused a new lease of life in the otherwise inert resistance politics of Kashmir.
The Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq broke his months-long silence on July 3, calling for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Pertinently those in-charge of Kashmir affairs in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir are disheartened by the tone and tenor of Geelani’s letter, but they haven’t given up on him.
Authentic sources say Government of Pakistan is considering conferring one of Pakistan’s civilian awards on the senior leader or honouring him through a postal stamp.
Therefore New Delhi’s assertion that Geelani’s legacy is over is clearly off the mark.
Shabir Hussain is a senior journalist and political analyst based in J & K