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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Hawk Geelani quits as Hurriyat faction chief, slams rival bid to ‘create parallel structure’

Geelani has taken a potshot at the Hurriyat leadership in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), accusing it of using its influence to get close to the power corridors in Pakistan.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar | Updated: June 30, 2020 4:41:06 am
Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigns from All Party Hurriyat Conference Senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned from All Party Hurriyat Conference on Monday. (Express archives)

In a sudden move Monday, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned as chief of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, complaining that constituents of the amalgam failed to lead the people after abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, “overstepped the limits”, and tried to “create a parallel structure”.

He also took a swipe at the Hurriyat leadership in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, calling it “just a representative forum” with “no power to take any decision” and using its influence to “get close to power corridors” in Pakistan.

EXPLAINED

Hurriyat’s rapid loss of ground

Even before the abrogation of J&K’s special status last August, separatist politics in the Valley had lost traction. With most leaders now under detention, those free, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have preferred silence. Given this, Geelani's resignation doesn't mean much for separatist politics. It may lead to disintegration of the Hurriyat, and propel a younger, hardline leadership.

The ailing Geelani, who is 91, became life-time chief of the hardline faction, floated after the split of the Hurriyat Conference split in 2003.

The other faction is led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. With Geelani’s resignation, there is speculation on his successor in the hardline group and its future. The spotlight is also on Mirwaiz Farooq and Yasin Malik’s JKLF.

In his resignation letter, Geelani said there was no change in his ideology and that he would “continue to fight”. Without naming anyone, he accused a section of the Hurriyat leadership of abdicating responsibility after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories.

“The hope was that they (Hurriyat leaders) would stand against this… and fulfil their responsibilities to encourage the people,” Geelani said in the letter. “Despite unprecedented restrictions and detention, I tried to reach out to you people, but you were not available,” he said.

Hurriyat’s rapid loss of ground

Even before the abrogation of J&K’s special status last August, separatist politics in the Valley had lost traction. With most leaders now under detention, those free, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have preferred silence. Given this, Geelani's resignation doesn't mean much for separatist politics. It may lead to disintegration of the Hurriyat, and propel a younger, hardline leadership.

He said he cannot take responsibility for the “errors” of his associates. “It is beyond my capacity to be answerable to the faults and errors of my colleagues besides my own. You are free to make a decision for yourself,” he said. “In view of the present circumstances after pondering over the entire issue, I have decided to dissociate from the Hurriyat Conference,” he said.

There are several reasons behind Geelani’s dissociation from the Hurriyat Conference at this juncture. Although poor health and his advanced age have substantially restricted his activities, Geelani’s decision, sources said, is seen as a response to the disenchantment with the leadership following the abrogation of the special status of J&K and the series of moves that followed.

A source close to Geelani told The Indian Express that “he does not want to take responsibility of decisions taken by any Hurriyat leader that would put a question mark on his credibility at this stage of his life”.

“While most leaders are behind bars, Geelani has reports that a few who are free and are running the Hurriyat on the ground are now close to the government and some national political parties,” the source said. “Before these leaders take any decision, he decided to dissociate,” the source said.

Geelani, the source said, was particularly worried about the activities of two leaders — one from north Kashmir’s Bandipore district and another from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

With Geelani’s resignation, the course that the Hurriyat faction charts next under a new leadership will be under scrutiny. While Geelani was considered a hardline leader, there was no mystery about his separatist politics. He had emerged as a central figure of the conglomerate with influence even over militant groups. He was a politician, had contested elections before the onset of militancy, and had knowledge of Kashmir’s political landscape.

Sources said the unfolding of events on the ground since August 5, 2019 suggest that the next leader may be younger in age, an “unknown probable”.

Geelani’s resignation has also put an end to the succession battle within the Hurriyat because a new chief will be chosen in his lifetime.

The Hurriyat will now go through the process of electing a new leader, putting Geelani’s sons on a par with other contenders.

In Geelani’s letter, there are also clear hints of a shift in Kashmir’s separatist politics. He has taken a potshot at the Hurriyat leadership in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), accusing it of using its influence to get close to the power corridors in Pakistan.

He called the leadership there “just a representative forum and has no power to take any decision. But for the past some time, there have been complaints against them of using their influence to get close to power corridors, of financial irregularity and internal bickering,” the letter said. “When we tried to seek accountability, they started non-cooperation,” it said.

While separatists are still trying to understand the import of Geelani’s resignation, the government is closely watching the developments. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav was first political leader to post the resignation letter on social media.

“The separatist politics stands rejected in Kashmir and Hurriyat is no more relevant after the August 5 historic decision of the Government of India,” BJP spokesman in Kashmir, Altaf Thakur said.

“This is beyond doubt that Hurriyat is irrelevant now. All the sources of funds for Hurriyat leaders have stopped since the past few years, especially after the rollback of Article 370. Hawala channels, the main source of funding, has been choked due to the timely action of Government of India and its premier agency NIA,” he said.

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