Geelani Emerges As One-man Noise Versus Total Calm In Valley
20 April 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Even as it is widely perceived to have generated a groundswell of support in the trouble-torn Kashmir valley, the fresh era of harmony between New Delhi and Islamabad has threatened to split Syed Ali Shah Geelani's faction of the Hurriyat Conference. Geelani has been religiously opposing every new development-from launching of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to Gen Pervez Musharraf's New Delhi visit-but not more than two groups in his 15-party amalgam have buttressed his belligerent views. Mistrust and confusion in Geelani's fold has been unfolding from the contradictory acts and statements of the heads of different constituents since February this year when India and Pakistan decided to launch a bus service between the two cities from April 7th. As leaders of the so-called 'moderate' faction of the Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, lost no time to welcome the historic CBM between New Delhi and Islamabad, Geelani did not use any equivocation in assailing the same. He argued that any CBM pushed and pursued by New Delhi would be necessarily advantage India and, according to him, providing background music to such initiatives would tantamount to 'falling in a trap'. Things worsened and came to a head in Geelani's Hurriyat when five of his constituents violated the chairman's embargo on attending Pakistan's national day at the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi on March 23. With his stubborn act of turning down repeated requests from the High Commission, Geelani sought to convey the 'Kashmiri peoples' displeasure' to Islamabad over that country's 'undesirable' bonhomie with New Delhi. But what the seniormost separatist politician failed to visualise was the fact that he was ending up with being the one-odd voice of dissent. In addition to five leaders of the Geelani Hurriyat, all the senior leaders of the Mirwaiz faction were gleefully in attendance. The non-Hurriyat bigwigs, including Mohammad Yasin Malik of JKLF and Shabir Ahmed Shah of Democratic Freedom Party, were also conspicuous by their presence. Still, the more important factor, which Geelani refused to read, was the Kashmiris' positive reaction generating in favour of the peace process. Admittedly, there was no public euphoria on April 7th but the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of the Kashmiris watched the exchange of passengers on television with their silence of acceptance and endorsement. Everywhere, there were tears and smiles. It took the angry guerrilla outfits a chain of threats, coupled with a fiery attack on the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) in Srinagar, to freeze the Valley. Inspite of total shutdown, thousands of people had lined up on either side of the road, braving intermittent rain and high-speed winds, to welcome the passengers from Muzaffarabad on Srinagar-Uri road. Cultural exchanges between the two countries, huge traffic of film stars and musicians and now the fresh series of cricket matches had already deflated the balloon of virulent hostility between India and Pakistan. When Gen Musharraf's visit to New Delhi materialised in dramatic circumstances last month, Geelani was among dozen-odd Kashmiri separatists invited for an interaction with the Pakistani leader. The old man may deserve credit for the audacious sermon he reportedly delivered on the General, but his disappointment was writ large on his face when reporters and camerapersons caught him outside. The General had reportedly admonished him for his refrain of Wana (where Pakistani troops destroyed villages to liquidate the Jehadi guerrillas) and warned him against 'interfering in our internal matters'. Geelani did candidly reveal at today's news conference at his Hyderpora residence that Musharraf too had told him what he was never prepared to accept: That 9-11 had changed the world. He said that Musharraf reacted to Geelani's references to Agra (when the Pakistani leader had stuck to the K-word and asserted that trade etc would follow Kashmir) and made it clear to his Kashmiri guests that if anything could be achieved with India, it could be through friendship alone. In the backdrop of this one-man noise and a strategic silence in the entire separatist camp, Kashmiris have apparently begun to take their own decisions. There is no jubilation on the streets but an all-pervading sense of relief is not invisible. That's why, until today, there are neither brickbats nor a single slogan against the fresh format of the India- Pakistan relationship, Muzaffarabad bus and Manmohan-Musharraf statement, which comes with the promise of peace. Fortunately or unfortunately, Geelani is the only leader in Kashmir's separatist camp, who has burned his boats of return. He will continue to be remembered for his unflinching commitment to Kashmir's Azadi but neither his estranged mentor, Gen Musharraf (who is burdened with a state of shattered economy), nor his constituent groups (who are known for ambition) are likely to stand by him in the 'crisis' unfolding for armed insurgencies in this region. Perhaps the most significant decision lies with Jamaat-e-Islami, Geelani's real flagship of politics.