Analysis | New Delhi, Islamabad tussle looms as Hurriyat implodes

Syed Ali Shah Geelani. File.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The resignation of Syed Ali Shah Geelani from the All Party Hurriyat Conference last week set off ripples of speculation over the future of the outfit and its role in the politics of the Kashmir Valley. In his reasons for quitting, Mr. Geelani had warned darkly about internal feuds and corruption among the ranks of the Hurriyat; what was left unsaid was just where this internal feud would leave the organisation.

Also read: Analysis: Does Geelani’s resignation mark waning of separatism?

Why the resignation?

Mr. Geelani’s resignation was preceded by a series of cases registered against him and his close associates by central agencies including the National Investigative Agency (NIA) especially since 2017. It also followed the almost deafening silence of the Hurriyat leadership after the August 5, 2019 abrogation of Article 370 and the change in status of Jammu and Kashmir from a State to a Union territory sans Ladakh.

“He was gradually losing favour with Pakistan and was being sidelined. The situation was further complicated as he wanted his son to succeed him, this did not cut ice with Pakistani authorities,” a senior government official told The Hindu.

Also read: Syed Ali Geelani ‘last wish’ videos: J&K Police open inquiry

In May 2017, Zakir Musa split from the Hizbul Mujahideen and pledged allegiance Al Qaeda and had threatened to “decapitate and hand Hurriyat leaders” and warned against terming Kashmir a “political issue”, a departure from his predecessor Burhan Wani who had been killed in 2016, and whom Mr. Geelani had credited with reviving what he termed the “Kashmiri Freedom Struggle”.

All of this raises questions on Mr. Geelani’s clout in the separatist movement, although senior government officials say that he is “still an icon and a symbol of resistance.”

There is a search on for younger, more credible leaders for the Hurriyat on the part of Pakistan, especially after the events of August 5 last year, a role that the 90-year-old Mr Geelani, despite his symbolic value, was unable to fulfil anymore.

Prognosis for Hurriyat

In the lull following Mr. Geelani’s resignation, there is one blinding piece of clarity at least among government sources — that the internal feud within the Hurriyat is going to grow. A leadership tussle will follow and in the words of one senior source, “it will go into a street by street battle” and leave the field open for security agencies of both India and Pakistan to manoeuvre in the interstices.

While some senior government officials say that it could lead to a more a dominant intervention by Pakistan in choosing the new leadership (especially after the appointment of Mohammad Hussain Khateeb as chief of the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir chapter of the Hurriyat), two other officials said the Indian government was in a better position than before in terms of influencing decisions. A game of smoke and mirrors is almost certain in either situation.

For long the mainstay of separatist politics, the Hurriyat is at a crucial crossroads — to reinvent or perish — in the post Article 370 scenario.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 2:44:33 PM |

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