SRINAGAR: Feeling hurt at being sidelined in certain decision-making and underhand disparagement of his role within the amalgam, Kashmir’s separatist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday announced his decision to quit the Hurriyat Conference.
Sources privy to the development said the nonagenarian politician’s move may have come as a surprise to many outside the Hurriyat Conference but within the amalgam it was being anticipated for quite some time. However, it was the endorsement by the Hurriyat Conference (G)’s Valley-based “advisory council” of an earlier decision taken by its Pakistan and PoK chapter to remove his close confidante, Syed Abdullah Geelani, as its emissary in Islamabad that pulled the trigger, sources said.
Geelani, while announcing his decision to sever his association with the Hurriyat Conference, said that Abdullah will continue to work as his representative in PoK and overseas. He accused his colleagues in Jammu & Kashmir of having failed to respond to his repeated requests to meet up to evolve a strategy to face the post-5 August 2019 situation in the erstwhile state but hurdling up at the drop of a hat in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic to endorse the “unconstitutional” decision and then getting it publicised through their “favourite broadcasting houses”.
“I sent messages to you through various means so that the next course of action could be decided, but all my efforts (to get in touch) went in vain. Now that the naked sword of accountability is hanging over your heads, you have started feeling the heat of answerability. The curtain over financial irregularities is taking off and you are terrified of losing your positions (within the amalgam). In spite of the pandemic and official curbs, you huddled up for the advisory committee meeting, supporting and endorsing the unconstitutional decision taken by your representatives. By doing this, you have set a strange example of solidarity and uniformity,” Geelani alleged in his signed letter.
The Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of 27 separatist Kashmiri parties and groups, was launched in March 1993 as a political platform to pursue the aazadi campaign. It split in 2003 following differences between what are often referred to as being moderate and hard-line factions. The battle lines got entrenched when the so-called moderate faction of the alliance headed by Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq began peace talks with the Centre despite sharp criticism at home. The rival faction termed the move as “betrayal” and elected Geelani as its chairperson. He was subsequently declared the lifetime head of the amalgam faction.
Pakistan officially, however, recognized the Mirwaiz-led faction, and the reason behind this was believed to be Geelani’s stiff and open opposition to General Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula on Kashmir. It was then believed in some political circles in J&K and Pakistan that Musharraf himself had prompted the split in the Hurriyat Conference in an attempt to isolate the defiant Geelani though the former Pakistan President had, in an interview to this correspondent in autumn 2004, denied the charge.
“There are some internal differences and I don’t want to get involved in that. For the sake of peace and reconciliation they have to reunite or, at least, have a common agenda on vital issues,” he had said.
Yet, for some political watchers here, history may tend to repeat itself as Geelani has failed to live up to Islamabad’s expectation in post-August 5, 2019, scenario in J&K whereas the Mirwaiz and other separatist leaders who are not under detention have miserably failed to play any predictable or even customary role during this period, pushing the separatist camp in disarray and its supporters in public dispirited and bewildered.
But as Geelani’s letter on Monday suggested, he is not to be blamed for ‘hibernation’. He claimed that it were his colleagues in the Hurriyat Conference who let him down. The 91-year-old leader, who has been under house arrest for the past many years, with only occasional restricted liberty, has vowed to continue to fight against “Indian colonialism”, adding that his age or failing health will not act as an impediment in the “struggle”. He, however, said that it was in view of the current state of the Hurriyat Conference that he is announcing his complete dissociation from the forum.
Kashmir political watchers believe that if his health permits it, he would continue to use his veto power on issues that may surface in the separatist camp, as he has the capacity and the capability of holding sway on diehard Kashmiri youth by flaunting his intense views on issues.