Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned from his faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference on 29th June. He appointed Abdullah Geelani as his successor, who has been burning his bridges with the Pakistani establishment since August 2019. The nationalists hailed this as another victory for the Modi 2.0 government while Pakistan mourned perhaps the loss of another one of its best allies.
Yet amidst all this confusion and general public ignorance on matters of Kashmir, one must ask.
What the hell is going on?
Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (literally: Freedom movement) is an organisation that claims itself to be the sole representative of the Kashmiri people and advocates for separation from India. It formed in 1993 as an umbrella organisation for all parties which sought to separate Kashmir from India, even though the parties held vastly different ideologies and visions – leading to serious bickering and quarreling within.
The constant feuds culminated into a split in 2003, with the moderate separatists siding with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliners falling behind Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The Hurriyat, nevertheless, had gained incredible influence over the Kashmir valley. So much so that L. K. Advani, deputy PM in 2004, called the Hurriyat to Delhi for holding talks about the future of Kashmir.
The Hurriyat has been known to be involved in anti-India activities – inciting the youth to protest, attracting unemployed men to participate in paid stone pelting (a report pegged a payment of around Rs 400 per week for every pelter) on Indian armed forces, coordinating with terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and actively advocating a boycott of elections held in Jammu and Kashmir. Most of the organisations in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference are also known to have their respective militant wings.
How successful have they been? That’s disputable. We know their efforts to get Kashmiris to boycott the Assembly elections of 2014 failed miserably as a voter turnout of over 65% was recorded, highest in the past 25 years. This serves as an indicator of the declining stronghold of the Conference in Kashmir.
The Conference has been found to have links with Pakistan. The FBI admitted that it had evidence to claim that Kashmiri separatist organisations were on the payroll of Pakistan, when they arrested Ghulam Naib Fai for laundering money from Pakistan’s Intelligence organisation ISI to the USA, in order to change their stand on the Kashmir issue.
Why did Syed Ali Shah Geelani resign?
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, previously a member of Jamaat-e-Islami (founded on the ideals of pan-Islamism and conversion of all residing in the subcontinent to Islam), became one of the founders of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
His organisation had played a considerable role in promoting separatist sentiments among the populace of Kashmir and funding terror groups to attack the Indian establishment in Kashmir.
However, the Modi govt has maintained a rather hardline position on Hurriyat since its election in 2014. It stalled talks on multiple instances where the Pakistani diplomats met Hurriyat leaders on their visit to India as a clear indication of not recognizing their legitimacy on the Kashmir issue. The government was further antagonized by the Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019 and has taken to a serious crackdown on separatist groups since then.
Hurriyat was clearly amongst one of the weakened organisations by this crackdown. It took another blow in August 2019 with the historic abrogation of Article 370, which took away the powers of semi-autonomy that Jammu & Kashmir enjoyed, bringing it at par with other Indian states.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, while resigning on 29th June 2020, cited the Conference’s inaction on the abrogation as the reason for his disappointment with the Conference. Although the true reasons for his resignation remain unknown.
What does it mean for the nation and Kashmir specifically?
Firstly, from a national security point of view, it can be seen as a win for the national integration of Kashmir. It could mean that we’re perhaps a step closer to eradicating separatism in the valley and the balance of power is shifting away from Pakistan and allied separatists towards the Indian establishment.
Secondly, it must be understood that though this may signal to some as if the government were “curbing Kashmiri voices” behind the curtain, its political-legal perspective must be given its due before believing that. Democracy exists so that every citizen of the nation has a platform to fulfill their political aspirations, which is useful when it reflects the public will. Yet advocating secession is not only against the fundamental Constitutional values of our country but also likely to be detrimental to the interests of the people of the region, hence secessionist views must absolutely not be tolerated in a country like ours.
Lastly, the resignation of Syed Ali Shah Geelani signals a decline of separatism in the valley and if greater evidence of resolution and security emanates from Kashmir then businesses might start investing more in the region and may help speed up the rehabilitation of Kashmiris.
– Satvik Tripathi,
Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata