May 2002 News

Geelani is Jamaat''s hard target

6 May 2002
The Asian Age

Srinagar: A war of nerves has been triggered in the Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the important constituents of the Hurriyat Conference. And the guns are trained on Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The source of acrimony is undoubtedly New Delhi’s effort to break the ice in Kashmir by winning over some of the known faces of the Valley’s separatist politics and Islamabad’s effort to ensure the move fails. Despite the denials issued, the divide between the so-called moderates and hardliners seems complete. The two sides have, much to their dismay of their supporters, chosen to air their grievances in public and this behaviour has threatened the very existence of the conglomerate, Kashmir watchers say. A fresh move is on to replace Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the firebrand leader of Kashmir’s Jamaat-e-Islami, as its representative in the Hurriyat Conference for his hardline views on holding peace talks with the Centre and the issues confronting India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. A similar effort met with failure last year when most members of the Jamaat’s Majlis-e-Shoora (advisory council) thought it unwise to recall Syed Geelani from the Hurriyat for similar reasons. Such a step, they quickly realised, would have sent the wrong signals to the public about the Jamaat’s role in the separatist campaign. Gulam Mohammed Butt, the present amir (chief) of the Jamaat, is Syed Geelani’s bete noire and behind the campaign seeking his ouster from the Hurriyat Central Executive, the seven- member highest decision-making body of the conglomerate. Mr Butt has openly, and candidly, rejected Syed Geelani’s latest call to “continue the jihad” as his personal view and one that does not necessarily reflect Jamaat policy. Privately, he even questioned Syed Geelani’s wisdom and urged like-minded party colleagues to ensure that he is recalled from the Hurriyat “before it is too late.” On this he enjoys the support of some of Geelani’s adversaries within the Hurriyat as well. Mr Butt and his supporters believe Syed Geelani’s observation that the “jihad must continue” lacked sagacity and was made without actually consulting his Jamaat-e-Islami colleagues. Syed Geelani’s jihad statement came amidst reports that suggested that two other senior Hurriyat leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, along with former Pakistan-occupied Kashmir prime minister and Pakistan National Kashmir Committee chairman Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan had, at their recent Dubai meeting, decided to see an end to violence in Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Syed Geelani’s supporters accuse Mr Butt without any hesitation of having “sold himself out” to the whims of the Indian government. “At least his words and some actions betray the Jamaat-e-Islami’s commitment to the cause,” said one Geelani supporter. Syed Geelani is learnt to be confident of winning the battle of wits within the Jamaat. Its Majlis-e-Shoora may meet here soon to discuss the latest political and other developments related to the organisation. Mr Butt’s supporters will very probably try to raise the issue of Syed Geelani’s role as the Jamaat representative in the Hurriyat and the implications of his latest outbursts against India. The anti-Geelani lobby will also do all it can to see that the council recalls him from the Hurriyat. Mr Geelani’s supporters’ main argument is that the people of Kashmir, especially Jamaat supporters, will see it as part of a “sell-out” that sections of the separatist leadership are suspected to be preparing for. The fact remains that the Hurriyat leaders have developed a habit of working at cross-purposes. Tensions within the Hurriyat were heightened during the recent visit to the Valley by former RAW chief and officer on special duty in the PMO A.S. Dullat. Known to be a “personal friend” of some of the Hurriyat leaders, Mr Dullat was on a “soften behaviour” mission in preparation to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s proposed Kashmir visit.


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