August 2004 News

Geelani's Last Card

9 August 2004
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: Behind the soft exterior of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a tough man, a hard nut to crack. He has proved time and again that nothing can make him yield his position. As was to be expected, he has floated his political outfit, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir, last weekend. This was considered a mere formality after he had managed to marginalise his opponents within his parent organisation Jamaat-e-Islami in an intense intra-party struggle and secured their total support for his new venture. For the septuagenarian leader this is the beginning of a new phase in his turbulent life. Perhaps this will also be the most decisive. One would have to admire his tenacity of purpose and objective. At a time when it appeared that he had lost the battle with the Jamaat leadership and that his favourite country Pakistan had dumped him in the wake of its peace talks with India he has recovered to assert his personal identity as well as political agenda. He has never left any doubt that he is for the merger of the State with Pakistan although practically speaking he is for allowing the people to exercise their right to self-determination. He has said he would go by the will of the people even if it meant going against his own individual choice. Apart from his undiluted conviction one of his sources of strength is that he has the complete confidence of the hardcore militant bodies, particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen, and he has not fought shy of leading the funeral processions of foreign mercenaries. Having noted this, one can't overlook the fall-out from his latest move: he has virtually declared that those who are not with him are against him. He may have thus invited further isolation. He has ruled out independence as an option. This in turn implies that he would have to make do without the organisations like the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the other similar parties. This is not all. As Islamic ideologues, he and the Jamaat have a running conflict with the Valley's long tradition of mysticism and Sufism and it is no secret that this has worked to their disadvantage seriously affecting the expansion of their popular base. It is, moreover, clear that he finds no use for the other Hurriyat faction that is engaged in talks with the Union Government. It is not for nothing that he has already got the approval of his wing of the Hurriyat to the sweeping changes in the constitution of the secessionist conglomeration that have the effect of vesting total control in him. Evidently Mr Geelani is prepared to contend with all these adverse factors. He can't be at the same time unaware of the growing influence of the mainstream parties - the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party - in the changed milieu in which the ordinary citizens are increasingly clamouring for peace and harmony. By adopting a hawkish posture, he may appear to be out of tune with the prevailing realities. He is obviously being unrealistic. That does not seem to bother him at all. In his single-minded pursuit, he has played what is his last card. Has he not moved in the eye of the wind? We will know soon.


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