Rift in Hurriyat deepens as Geelani is sidelined
12 March 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The infighting in the Hurriyat Conference came to the fore on Monday when Syed Ali Shah Geelani was not invited to attend a crucial meeting of its central executive committee. The meeting discussed threadbare the recent statement of Union home minister L.K. Advani on the floor of Parliament on the amalgam’s standing and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s outright rejection of implementing the relevant Security Council resolution on the Kashmir dispute. No official explanation to Mr Geelani’s exclusion was given. “I understand no invitation letter had gone to him,” said Mr Bashir Ahmed Butt, the JKLF leader who represented its chairman Muhammad Yaseen Malik at the meeting. Malik is currently undergoing treatment in the United States. Another Hurriyat activist, who requested anonymity, said since the Jamaat-e-Islami’s rejection to recall Mr Geelani from the executive was also to come up for discussion at the meeting, it would not have been proper to ask him to attend it. A statement issued at the end of the meeting merely said organisational matters were also discussed and it was felt that all related issues may be resolved amicably in the larger interest of unity. It was hoped that after the details are worked out, the issues confronting the amalgam would be resolved. Later, Mr Geelani confirmed that Hurriyat chairman Prof. Abdul Gani Butt had written a letter to Jamaat chief Gulam Muhammad Butt requesting him to replace him (Mr Geelani) as a member of the amalgam’s executive. Addressing a press conference here, Mr Geelani said the Jamaat has refused to oblige Mr Butt on the plea that the replacement would not be in the larger interest of the Muslim ummah (nation) and the Kashmiri movement for freedom. “The Jamaat’s Majlis-e-Shoora (advisory council), which met here at the weekend, only endorsed the decision,” Mr Geelani, who also heads the political wing of this parent organisation, said. He added that this too was verbally conveyed to the Hurriyat chairman. The Hurriyat’s decision not to invite Mr Geelani to attend the Monday’s meeting may have come as a surprise move to some, but it only reflects the ongoing infighting within the amalgam. In particular, at stake is the public image of the Kashmir’s biggest alliance of secessionist parties and groups, which had also gained some recognition in international level. Some of the Hurriyat’s members are quite unhappy with Mr Geelani’s behaviour. The letter written to the Jamaat chief by Mr Butt also complains about his betrayal of party discipline. On Monday, Mr Geelani reiterated that religion and politics were inseparable and, in fact, every political activity ought to be subservient to religion of Islam as far as the Muslims were concerned. This, he said, despite the Jamaat Majlis-e-Shoora stating through a statement at the end of its meeting here on Saturday that Kashmir is a political issue with a humanitarian dimension. Mr Geelani has also publicly criticised the role of Mr Abdul Gani Lone, another Hurriyat executive member who, unlike the former, welcomed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s “peace initiatives” in Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Mr. Geelani insists that what he has done or said does not go against the Hurriyat Conference constitution, the promises and pledges made by the amalgam leadership before the people or the Jamaat’s agenda. The ongoing bickering within the Hurriyat Conference is also being seen by many in the backdrop of the centre’s outlook about Mr. Geelani and his kind of politics. When Prof. Butt included him in the Hurriyat Conference’s proposed delegation to Pakistan, the centre reportedly expressed its displeasure. It is generally believed that had Mr. Geelani not been there, the government would have cleared the visit long ago. On the other hand, the militant leaders in Pakistan not only welcomed Mr. Geelani’s inclusion but expressed their optimism about the outcome of much-talked about visit which speaks volumes about his standing among the groups determined to carry on with their fight. Observers feel that by not inviting Mr. Geelani to the executive meeting the Hurriyat Conference chairman and his supporters have not played their cards well. The move can well boomerang on them. The matter does not end up there either. It would not be as easy task for Mr. Geelani’s critics to explain their conduct in public. Already, doubts are being created in the minds of the Kashmiri population about their real role and, contrary to this, Mr. Geelani is emerging as a hero, at least among those who believe in politics of confrontation with the centre, precisely the fundamentalists. Some of the Hurriyat Conference activists including executive members who object to Mr. Geelani’s clamour are reportedly favouring his expulsion from the highest decision making body of the amalgam. But after the Jamaat has refused to even replace him in it, their job has become more difficult. Any step taken in haste on this account can only modify their own image. Asked as to why he was not invited to Mondays’ meeting, Mr. Geelani said it hardly bothered him. Observers feel that he was not hyperbolizing the situation.