Hardliner Geelani flourished only after 2002
UPA showered adjectives to soothe Omar, lost all gains Delhi made in J&K in 20 years
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Aug 13: It was more than on one occasion that New Delhi attempted to neutralize Paklistan’s plebiscite argument on the international diplomacy front with the participation of the Kashmiris in Assembly elections of 2008. Diminishing militancy was simultaneously celebrated as an achievement. Having meticulously bargained power with National Conference (NC), Congress refused to come out of its complacency. Rather than taking political initiatives from the commanding position it enjoyed first time in the last several years, Congress-led UPA government made hardly any attempt to perceive the back swing in Omar Abdullah’s popularity in the Valley.
Omar alone was never to blame for the reverse. For months, he was beguiled into the uncouth romanticism by the Centre. The attribute of the “youngest Chief Minister’ did not go till the poor politician’s hair turned grey a year later. As lately as on June 7th this year, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, disappointed many in the Valley by restricting his offer of dialogue to only those sections “who are against violence and bloodshed”. During his visit in Srinagar next day, he described Omar “not only the youngest but also the most competent Chief Minister”. Men like Narendra Modi and even women like Shiela Dixit may not have taken ill of the appreciation as they knew that the Prime Minister’s assessment was based on a PowerPoint presentation---powerful indeed---but not on the real parameters of governance and development.
Earlier, these days last year, Manmohan Singh’s Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram, had set off the balloon of “quiet diplomacy” in Srinagar. That whole drama of “quiet diplomacy” ended with anti-climax when unidentified persons attacked Hurriyat dove, Fazal Haq Qureishi, in vicinity of his residence in Soura.
Sustained marginalization of so-called moderates in the Valley’s separatist camp led to proportionate swelling of hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s influence. Octogenarian Geelani knew that New Delhi’s permissiveness of the hate-India sentiment in Jammu & Kashmir was to the best of his advantage. He also perceived weakness of the rulers in Srinagar to showcase soft corner for the hardliners. It took him just months to realize that the youngest Chief Minister was well on Mufti Sayeed’s track of velvet fist rather than Farooq Abdullah’s iron gloves.
Watching Omar forward PDP’s healing touch policy to the extent of issuing Passports to the most persecuted sections of the separatists and militants and, in fact, beginning his work after expansion of his Cabinet with recruiting over 300 of the Jamaat-e-Islami activists as teachers, Geelani began to assert afresh.
Geelani, indeed, stands out in the crowd of Kashmiri politicians in professing the art of building his strength over the weaknesses of the Indian democratic system. In certain areas, he has indisputably outclassed even the towering Sheikh Abdullah. Contrary to Abdullah, Geelani’s base of influence was for decades limited to just a section of Jamaat-e-Islami.
Even when Sheikh was in jail, Geelani was among the five Jamaat-e-Islami candidates whose victory was dubiously facilitated by Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Congress party in the fraudulently conducted Assembly elections of 1972. It happened years before Bhindranwale was picked up for a role in the SGPC elections in Punjab. By the time a secessionist guerrilla movement erupted in Kashmir in 1989 and the Jamaat firebrand resigned as a MUF MLA, he had represented his constituency of Sopore for three terms and contested more elections than any of the state’s Chief Ministers and their family members.
Geelani’s influence in the separatist camp was penuriously limited till 2002, notwithstanding his acting as Hurriyat’s chairman for a term. Then a Jamaat ideologue, he was harshly pushed out of a condolence meeting over the assassination of People Conference founder Abdul Gani Lone. Many in the PC suspected him of being friendly with Lone’s assassins. They had no hesitation in asserting publicly.
When Mufti Sayeed engineered Hurriyat’s first split in 2003 after 10 years of its existence by inducting Lone’s confidante and PC’s proxy MLA from Handwara, Mohiuddin Sofi, as a Minister, none of the constituents sided with Geelani. Diving in controversy after controversy, Geelani was expelled even from the Jamaat he had served for over 40 years. He was reprimanded by then Pakistani President, Gen Musharraf, for his lack of reconciliation. Then came his real defining moments. He not only launched his own, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, but also projected an alliance of nondescript separatist groups as the “real” Hurriyat. This is the alliance that is calling the shots in Kashmir today and has, for the first time, brought New Delhi to its knees. Much of its credit unmistakably goes to Mufti, followed by Omar.
(To be continued….)