Geelani created roadblocks, made unreasonable and irrational demands to wreck reconciliatory efforts
We are talking about the man who knew he would lead Kashmiris nowhere. We are talking about the man who lorded over the funerals of hundreds and thousands of budding young Kashmiris so that his own funeral would be grand and glorious. By 2010, those close to him knew his final wish was that people in lakhs should attend his last rites, and entire Kashmir should mourn his death. Syed Ali Geelani was lowered into his grave in the dead of night with only some family members standing by. Man proposes God disposes. After prolonged illness, the hardline separatist leader died on September 1 at 10.30 pm. Geelani had been terminally ill for many years. His end brings into focus many important layers in Kashmir which merit an elaborative analysis. For many, Geelani was a symbol of resistance. Yes, Geelani was resolute in whatever he believed. Equally, he was an irrational politician with little knowledge of geopolitics. Geelani was a maze warrior. He took a lurching, dazed and confused into the so-called fight for freedom with no endgame in sight. In his last years, Geelani had the realization that his political beliefs where just flights of fancy. It was too late by then. Was it his personal ego that did not allow him to be realistic in his political views? Or was he always too firmly in the grip of Pakistan and the hawala channels that fed him and his large family? Whatever be the truth, History shall not be kind to Geelani. He presided over the killings of young Kashmiri men while his clan amassed fortunes. His his children and grandchildren led a luxurious, sheltered life far from jihad.
Geelani lorded over the most turbulent and destructive periods in contemporary Kashmir. His despotic political beliefs and complete submission to Pakistan on Kashmir served to embolden New Delhi for a radical shift in its Kashmir policy.
The Wasted Opportunities
Geelani wasted opportunities for an honorable exit from the bloody conflict. He inculcated a culture of lawlessness, intolerance and extremism in Kashmir. Geelani presided over transformation of Kashmir from an inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant society to an intolerant, exclusivist, and politically irrational one. Geelani engineered the death of logic and reason in Kashmir through his extremist interpretations of both religion and politics.Geelani believed in the doctrine of supremacy. He would never argue, nor would he did listen to the opposite viewpoint. Geelani could not be held accountable. He could not be questioned. Always a victim of self illusions and delusions, Geelani tried to consistently impose his own ideology upon Kashmir. Kashmiris always were and continues to be too diverse for his totalitarian views.
Dumped by Pakistan in 2016
By the end of 2016, Geelani realized that he was no more required by Pakistan. His sell-by date had expired with the glamorization of new generation militant commanders. It was too late. Before Geelani could engineer a tactical shift that would serve him and his family, Pakistan abandoned him. The communications channels dried up. His representatives in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied (POK) Kashmir showed their back to Geelani. This was perhaps the biggest shock of Geelani’s political career spanning over 50 years. Geelani was dumped by Pakistan much before law enforcing agencies swung into action against the Kashmiri separatists over foreign funding. It is wrong to say that Geelani went into silent mode after the enforcement agencies tightened the noose around the separatists. All indicators suggest that Geelani was abandoned by Pakistan by September 2016. The law enforcing agencies got active by 2017. Political and opinion leaders of all shades in Kashmir had consensual opinion about Geelani. All of them would argue that Geelani had realized the futility of his political ideology, but he stuck to it only for an honorable and glorious death. Dr Farooq Abdullah and late Mufti Mohd Syed are on record having said this. Geelani had many health issues. Since 2010 particularly, his condition deteriorated. From 2010 to 2021, Geelani’s doctors and family members were about to declare him dead on many occasions. A friend known for his strategic, tactical mind narrated to me that since 2010, senior police officers would invite him over for a meal when Geelani was reported unstable. He said senior officers would discuss with him how to maintain law and order and minimize causalities if Geelani died. In 2010, Mufti Sayeed told me that in the last phase of his life, Geelani will not change his mind. He is just waiting for a hero’s death. Geelani had not imagined that Pakistan would abandon him after he served their interest for five decades, at the cost of thousands of blossoming Kashmiri youth.
Grand Delusions That Devastated Kashmir
A veteran journalist wrote on Geelani’s death: He was among those Jamaat leaders in 1990 who opposed the inception of guns in Kashmir society. The journalist did not take long to exonerate Geelani of all the blunders he committed, and all his wrongs against the people of Kashmir. The then Ameer e Jamaat , Hakeem Ghulam Nabi and Qari Saifuddin would warn and argue publicly with Geelani against introducing the gun culture in Kashmir. Geelani never gave a damn to them. He remained firm on armed insurgency. He would ask people to be ready to fight a long battle. He would demand sacrifices from the people. After the end of each uprising since 2008, Geelani would blame Kashmiris for not giving enough to sustain the agitation in order to build pressure on India for resolution of the K issue. He wanted that the violent phase should end only with the kneeling down of New Delhi, or the local administration bowing before him. To achieve this chimera, Geelani would demand more and more blood to be spilled on the streets in Kashmir.
August 5, 2019 and Thereafter
The cascading effect of the events of August 5, 2019, events was multidirectional. The separatists lost the support of Pakistan. They got discredited before the people of Kashmir as much as the National Conference and PDP leadership. Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A exposed the mirage that the separatists and also the mainstream were selling to the people of Kashmir.
People were, and continue to be aghast with the political elites of Kashmir. The events of August 5, 2019 made Kashmiris realize that the entire political spectrum sold empty dreams to them. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s anti India rant could not help her get votes in the December 2020 elections to the District Development Councils (DDCs). The separatists and the mainstream camp stand exposed. Nobody believes them now. Geelani was buried quietly at night. His last rites were attended by only a few family members. This must be an eye-opener for those who still want to resort to emotive and exploitative politics.
The Man Who Gave Kashmir No Space
Geelani was a privileged Pakistani living in Kashmir – a staunch representative of Pakistan’s interests here. With his personal fortunes vastly built by hawala networks, for decades Geelani was a Pakistani by his ideas and beliefs. Some people wrongly regarded Geelani as the sole proprietor of the Kashmir cause. Not so. Geelani devoted his life not to Kashmir but to Pakistan. He was undoubtedly the most revered and respected strategic asset of Pakistan in Kashmir. By that account he was resolute and unwavering. That is precisely why he didn’t allow his arch political competitors in the separatist camp to reach any settlement with New Delhi. At least on three occasions, the beleaguered political leadership in Delhi offered space to the separatists on the dialogue table. But Geelani played the saboteur. His preconditions attached to dialogue with New Delhi made it difficult for both New Delhi and Geelani’s competitors in the separatist camp forge a consensus.
Politically naïve and rigid, Geelani refused to give space to the dynamics of conflict resolution. He had no endgame. Geelani created road blocks, made unreasonable and irrational demands to wreck reconciliatory efforts. Geelani never uttered a word beyond what Pakistan fed him. He represented Pakistani interests in Kashmir at the cost of interests of Kashmiris. This is precisely why Geelani sabotaged some historical opportunities which would have brought lasting peace to this region. He will go down in history as a saboteur.
Geelani Paralyzed Kashmir For Eight Years!
In August 2019, Article 370 was abrogated, and a lockdown was imposed. Soon thereafter, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries projected the losses incurred by the lockdown to be ten thousand crores. Imagine the material losses incurred by the Kashmiris over 30 years of hartals, shutdowns and enforced civil curfews!
In 30 years of violent conflict, Geelani issued shutdown calls for 2,928 days. This means that over 30 years, Geelani paralyzed normal life for eight years! The height of Kashmir’s moral numbness is that nobody questioned the supremacist Geelani for his irrational, illogical and self-destructive approach. Under his self delusionary leadership, Kashmiris lost self respect, generations of our youth, our cultural ethos – everything. Geelani grew taller by standing over dead bodies of innocent youngsters. Syed Ali Geelani enjoyed power without responsibilities. He would rule the streets to ruin them. No one could ever ask him why, when and how. Generations of Kashmiris had faith in him. Amazing are the ways of life! Geelani was finally demolished by Pakistan – for whom he worked his whole life. He died long before his physical death. He was no more Pakistan’s darling. All separatists lost ground after the abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
For Years, Kashmiris Had Known That There Would Be No Agitations If Geelani Died
On March 1, 2021 I was invited by National Defence College (NDC) for an exclusive interaction. Among others, a US defense expert was also present. During the question and answer session, the gentleman wanted to know the feel of the ground post abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, guaranteeing a unique status to Jammu and Kashmir within Union of India. I responded candidly. “Sir, I cannot quantify the pros and cons of the action of the Parliament. What I can say with authority is that if the hawkish separatist leader Sayed Ali Geelani dies today, Kashmir will not shut. There will be no protests whatsoever to create a law and order situation.”
I had stated the same many times earlier. I was not the only one to have articulated this. It was the feel of the ground. Many Kashmiris knew it. I was so confident of this that I spoke to many senior officers in JK Administration soon after news of Geelani’s death broke. I urged them not to impose curfew. I told them that restrictions in specific pockets like downtown and Hyderpora in uptown would suffice. Why would people come out chest beating, mourning the passing away of a leader who only presided over the death and destruction of Kashmiris? The UT Administration realized this soon enough. The curfew and restrictions did not stay for long. The only visible change on ground post the events of August 5, 2019 is that Kashmiris are completely disillusioned with the political leadership across the spectrum. Kashmiris have realized that they are all liars. Some lie in the name of secularism and composition culture. Others lie by invoking religion and Pakistan. Our so-called leaders have never been sincere to the people. They are the conflict entrepreneurs. Some sold conflict to New Delhi, some to Rawalpindi. The most crafty ones sold it to both New Delhi and Rawalpindi. The separatists had their own loyalists and customers in mainstream camps.
Of late, Kashmiris are least bothered about what is in store for the political elites. They celebrated the incarceration of Mehboiba Mufti and Omar Abdullah last year. Omar admitted as much. There is no love lost for Kashmir’s political leaders. And some years ago, Geelani lost the status of the popular leader of Kashmir.