Separatist leader Geelani quits Hurriyat Conference
Ailing hardliner cites ‘current situation’ to exit the grouping
Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, 90, on Monday decided to quit the conglomerate, without divulging his future course of action.
“I have decided to distance myself from the Hurriyat given the current situation [in the amalgamate],” an ailing Mr. Geelani said in an audio message. He said all the constituents of his faction of the Hurriyat had been informed, in a detailed letter, about the decision.
Mostly under house arrest since 2013 at his Srinagar residence, Mr. Geelani, a crowd-puller, was associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami but left it to float his own political organisation, the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. He also split from the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq faction of the Hurriyat over the approaches adopted to resolve the Kashmir problem.
Mr. Geelani, known for his hardline ideology, advocated accession of J&K to Pakistan.
He, however, did not clarify if he had resigned from the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
In the past two years, his health had deteriorated significantly, a family member said. “No one outside the family is allowed to see him.”
Sources said Mr. Geelani’s
resignation was due to the internal feud in the Hurriyat. It is likely to pave the way for a new leadership in the Hurriyat, which faced a massive clampdown in the run-up to the abrogation of J&K’s special status last year. Mr. Geelani had opposed the move and asked the Centre to work on a political resolution through dialogue with the Hurriyat and Pakistan.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav also tweeted about Mr. Geelani’s resignation.
BJP leader Aijaz Hussian said, “Other Hurriyat leaders should call it a day and realise their mistakes. India is the only way forward for all those who believed otherwise”.
Senior party leader Avinash Rai Khana described the resignation of Mr. Geelani as “a biggest benefit of the removal of Article 370”.
There has been no reaction from the other constituents of the Hurriyat.
The unexpected resignation of 90-year-old Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani from the conglomerate of separatist groups on Monday, left the already squeezed Kashmiri separatists in a state of shock and Pakistan in a corner.
Mr. Geelani, suffering from multiple ailments and tended by two sons at his Srinagar residence, has been the face of hard-line separatism for many decades now.
A close associate of Mr. Geelani, who refused to be named, said his resignation is aimed at both Pakistan and the redundant leadership around him. His resignation comes at a time when the separatists’ constituency is raising questions over the Hurriyat’s response to the Centre’s decision to revoke
J&K’s special status last year.
It remains to be seen if Mr. Geelani will also resign from his own party, the Tehreeke-Hurriyat. Many see Mr. Geelani's move as his last bid to play “the politics of deathbed” and “fulfill his wish to die a martyr, who never compromised”.
From contesting Assembly elections in 1970s to issuing boycott calls against the same after 1990s, Mr. Geelani steered Kashmir’s separatist movement and his ideas influenced both the people on the streets and the fastgrowing militant cadre then. However, neither age nor health nor recent political events favour him anymore.
Meanwhile, his resignation has paved the way for his old friend Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai to emerge as new ‘old-guard’ leader. Besides, it could also see the rise of younger leaders like Masrat Alam.
The timing of Mr. Geelani’s decision is also significant. It comes at a time when the Centre’s hardball politics managed to end the separatist politics, if not the sentiment, in one stroke on August 5, 2019, and succeeded in putting a pressure on them, not to rally people against the decision to revoke J&K’s special status. His resignation may give a sense of defeat to his own supporters and a boost to the mainstream parties to make inroads into separatist constituencies.
Crowd puller: A file photo of Syed Ali Geelani in Srinagar.
Syed Ali Geelani, who once contested polls, called for their boycott after 1990s.