Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s resignation from Hurriyat still mired in controversy

A week after the resignation by the hawkish separatist Kashmiri hardliner under house arrest in Srinagar, there is still no clarity whether it was triggered by Islamabad

Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Syed Ali Shah Geelani
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Gulzar Bhat

The sudden resignation of 91-year-old Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani from his faction of Hurriyat Conference has blindsided everyone in the Valley.

Since August 5, 2019, when Modi led BJP government unceremoniously put paid to the special position of Jammu and Kashmir and broke it into two union territories, separatist leaders had hardly carried out any political activities. Even their statements had disappeared from the media.

Although many of their senior leaders and members had been sent up the river and confined, those who were out and free went radio silent. Both the factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq steered clear of upbraiding New Delhi's August 5 move.

Last week, in an audio message, the nonagenarian leader announced his dissociation from Hurriyat which took everyone by surprise. A two-page missive detailing the reasons for his resignation had been widely circulated on social media.

Geelani accused Hurriyat members, who had not been detained after the government collared thousands of separatist leaders, students, lawyers as well as pro-India political leaders ahead or following the abrogation of special position of Jammu and Kashmir, of not providing leadership to the people of Kashmir.

"I tried to contact you; sent you messages and letters but I did not get any response from you", Geelani said in his letter. He chastised the members of Muzaffarabd branch of Hurriyat conference and blamed them for financial misappropriations, and for keeping in with the government.

All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an umbrella organisation of various political and religious groups, who repudiated the Indian rule in region, was formed in 1993, five years after militancy broke out in the Valley. In 2003 the APHC split on ideological differences. One faction was headed by Kashmir's chief cleric Mirwaiz Omar and the other was led by Geelani.

Some political analysts believed that the split was inevitable as the APHC was a ragtag coalition of different political ideologies and interests. It was filled with both doves and hawks.

Jamaat-e-Islamia sent Geelani to the assembly twice-- first in 1972 and then in 1977. He also won the controversial polls of 1987 as an independent candidate.

Geelani parted ways with the organisation and formed his own party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), one of the main constituents of his faction of Hurriyat Conference, in 2004 and became its chairman. In 2018, Geelani stepped down as the chairman of TeH. He was succedeed by his long-term associate Ashraf Sehrai. He, however, continued to head his faction of Hurriyat and in 2015 was elected as its life -time chairman.

"He was elected unanimously as everyone believes and trusts him. He is the only charismatic and revered leader in Kashmir today ", said a separatist leader who declined to be quoted.

The PoK chapter of Hurriyat conference has been seen at the heart of Geelani's resignation controversy.

In his resignation letter, Geelani argued that the PoK branch of Hurriyat Conference could not take any individual or collective decision as its significance is that of a "representative forum" only.

".. Particularly in the last two years multiple complaints in relation to this branch have been received", reads the letter.

If media reports are to be believed, the resignation of Geelani could be termed as an organisational coup hatched in PoK.

Some reports suggest that the leadership tussle between different leaders in PoK chapter of Hurriyat has compelled Geelani to bow out of the Hurriyat Conference.

According to these reports, Abdullah Geelani who was appointed by Ali Shah Geelaini as the convenor of PoK chapter, succeeding Ghulam Mohamad Safi, was recently replaced. "On June 3, Abdullah was ousted in Muzaffarabad, and replaced by Hussain Mohammed Khatib, said to be a front for Safi. The new appointment was approved by the APHC in Srinagar at its June 5 shura, minus Geelani’s participation, a flashpoint for his resignation", reported Indian express.

Sehrai, whose son Junaid Sehrai was recently killed in a fire fight with security forces in Srinagr, may steer the Hurriyat.

Following Geelani's resignation, the Mirwaiz faction of Hurriyat Conference last week held a meeting of senior executive members and reiterated their demand for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue after discussing the current political situation. It was the first meeting of the group since New Delhi did away with the special position of Jammu and Kashmir.

"There is a political vacuum in the Valley. People are disillusioned with both separatist and pro-India leadership. Now the question is who will fill this vacuum? ", says a Valley based political analyst wishing anonymity.

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