September 2003 News

Geelani Shows Hidden Hand

18 September 2003
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: By personally assuming the office of what he has labelled as the 'real' Hurriyat Conference, veteran secessionist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has played his last card. He had earlier appointed a little-known supporter in the same position thus leaving options open for a patch-up with the Moulvi Abbas Ansari-led faction should it respect his point of view and expel the People's Conference from the conglomeration. Clearly, that possibility has ended unless peace efforts initiated by Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq climax into something miraculous. It is a much more severe blow to the secessionist camp than any it had faced in the past. Mr Geelani is among those leaders who have systematically built a disciplined organisation namely, Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir), brick by brick, during the last 50 years. He is not a moderate like Mr Shabir Ahmad Shah who was the first top leader to have parted company with the Hurriyat Conference following controversy over his meeting with former United States ambassador in India Frank Wisner. Behind Mr Geelani's calm and sober exterior lies a man who is a hard nut to crack. To make fun of him and accuse him of duplicity just because he had been a member of the State Assembly for a long time would not in any way divert attention from the factual position. He had used his 11-year long stint as an elected legislator to propound the same theme which he does even today that the Kashmiris should have the right of self-determination. He has been far more consistent in his political philosophy, howsoever retrogradory and counter-productive it may be, than many who had travelled with him in the same boat. Merely contesting elections can't be the evidence of a leader having a double face. Such participation in a democratic exercise should be welcomed, instead. A large number of secessionists have taken part in electoral battles either by directly contesting or by backing one or the other candidate. Their young lot consists of the victims of the alleged rigging in the 1987 assembly elections. That almost all of them had lost faith in the electoral system is a telling commentary more on the system itself as it had existed until not very ago than on their individual conduct, including that of Mr Geelani. To say that not many important leaders have backed Mr Geelani in his new adventure is true to a large extent. He has not been able to muster the open support of any executive member of the Hurriyat Conference. What can't be overlooked, however, is that quite a few important second-rung leaders who have political acumen and requisite organisational experience have turned out in his favour. At least, four of them have been key figures behind the scenes. Underlining his importance is the fall-out from his latest move. His own political outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami, which had virtually disowned him and accepted Moulvi Abbas as the Hurriyat chief, is presently having second thoughts about him. No less significant is the development that Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front has moved away from the Abbas faction; it is more likely to maintain an equal distance from the Geelani faction as well. If this is true, a three- way split has already taken place in the Hurriyat Conference although there are some indications that JKLF may finally opt for supporting Mr Geelani which, if it happens, will not be without a touch of irony given their diametrically opposite ideologies. Any impression that all these developments imply that Mr Geelani is on the right course will be misplaced. Far from that. He is actually being entirely unrealistic in the present situation. His present strength is based on the militants' hidden support and not only on his ideological convictions. Militants have already accepted him as their leader. In fact, it is precisely because of his this constituency that the Abbas faction, after having smugly brushed aside 'split', has virtually developed cold feet and is again talking of a patch-up. On a wider canvas, Mr Geelani is justifying the role of pan-Islamic terrorist outfits and foreign mercenaries in the State. He is simply being out of tune with the prevailing global reality. It will further widen the gulf between him and the local population which in any case is not very fond of the Jamaat ideology and which is desirous of peace, harmony and communal amity after having lived through enough bloodshed during the last 15 years. With this background in view, it is astounding that Mr Geelani should be opting for militancy as the main instrument of bringing about a change. This shows his desperation. If doubts persist that his organisation would turn disruptive, it is because of the very expertise of its invisible faces who may become more ruthless and trigger-happy in the days to come. Apparently, Mr Geelani sees his last hope in the Islamic anger sweeping the world because of the United States' haughty invasion of Iraq and Israel's misplaced utterances against the Palestinians. What does he not realise that the same anger by and large subsides when it comes to mentioning the name of Osama bin Laden? He appears to be calculating that in the name of the religion, he may finally succeed in a Muslim-dominated State. That should explain why Pakistan after having tacitly supported the campaign to sideline him has quietly withdrawn and its official media has begun to prop him as the sole face of the Hurriyat Conference. It has rediscovered in him a votary of the two- nation theory who deserves another chance. Their wicked thinking runs contrary to the Kashmiri ethos of tolerance and secularism. Evidently their repeated failures have not convinced them about the futility of their exercise. In sharp contrast, the united Hurriyat Conference had seen the writing on the wall. It had come to terms with the post-9-11 scenario and realised that if it continued to partonise terrorism as it had done ever since its foundation, it would incur the wrath of its sympathisers in the international arena. It had sensed the changed local mood as well which has been cheerful after a good tourist season this year and massive celebrations of the Khirbhiwani fair. It was, however, unable to contain Mr Geelani's onslaught. As a result, it lies in a shambles. There is a strange argument put forth on behalf of the Abbas faction. This is that only if New Delhi had cared to heed its plea for a dialogue 'at the highest level', things would not have come to such a pass. It is utterly ridiculous. Faced with an in-house problem, Moulvi Abbas and his company should have resolved it on their own. Nobody would thrust respectability upon them till they catch the bull by the horns. If they truly believe that peace and dialogue are the only way out of the present situation in the State, why don't they stand up and say so? Or, is it that having been accomplices themselves for a long time, they can't find fault with Mr Geelani's unhesitant support to the mercenaries of all hues? They are lost in a maze of their own making. Fortune favours the brave and, in this case since Mr Geelani is being just reckless, they have a chance to prove themselves. All that they need to do is to show courage of conviction. They must sustain their common cause for peace. If that does not happen, they will have to take a back seat and leave Mr Geelani as the sole major player on their side of the political spectrum.


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