Pragmatic | Can you engage Syed Geelani?

There is no common meeting ground between Syed Geelani and the Indian state

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference, quoted speaking in a seminar at his residence in Srinagar yesterday:

“We should resist as per our capabilities and those who pick up arms are better than others. They don’t need our certificate as Allah has given them certificate.”[GK]

This is an unequivocal statement by Mr Geelani in support of the Pakistan-backed and -supported terrorists who have wrecked havoc in Kashmir over the last two decades. The very same terror which has led to the death of 43,460 people in the state between January 1990 and April 2011 (as per the Jammu & Kashmir government). More than 27,000 women have been widowed and 22,000 children orphaned during this period of terror.

But this should not surprise close observers of Kashmir. Mr Geelani led the prayers held in the honour of slain al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden in a Srinagar mosque earlier this year. He has been against an independent Kashmir but has always batted for its merger with Pakistan (see this blogpost). He has been in touch with Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the Jammat ud Dawa/ Lashkar-e-Taiba and addressing their anti-India rallies across Pakistan by telephone. Not only that, he has openly expressed his views about establishing a Nizam-e-Mustafa in Kashmir. This blogger had highlighted Geelani’s statement about an Islamic system in an old blogpost:

Ever since my release from prison on August 7, 2004, I have been spreading my message across Kashmir. I have a three-point programme.

First to impose an Islamic nizam (Islamic system) [in] Kashmir. Islam should govern our lives, be it in our political thought, socio-economic plans, culture or [other…].

The creed of socialism and secularism should not touch our lives, and we must be totally governed by the Koran and the Sunnat (precedents from Prophet Mohammad’s life).

“Secondly, I have been propagating that we must fight against anti-Islamic forces. These forces come in our way under the garb of nationalists, secularists, racists, linguistic chauvinists, and so on.

… Osama has come only during the last few years. People like me have been fighting for this all our lives. I do not want to be compared with Osama.[Link]

Many Indian commentators and analysts, particularly during the trouble in summer of 2010, spoke about Geelani’s leadership in Kashmir and India’s failure to engage him. They gloss over the fact that he is a rabid Islamist, a supporter of Pakistan who has consistently justified and promoted the use of terror by Pakistan in Kashmir. There can be little meeting ground between him and the Indian state: unless the Indian state chooses to turn its back on the ideals on which the Indian Republic has been founded. You can only reconcile the reconcilables. The irreconcilable will have to be shunned and marginalised. There is no other choice.

This leaves the moderate voices of Kashmiri separatism which are repeatedly tom-tommed by Delhi-based media. For one, these so-called moderates hold little sway, if any, over the anti-Indian section in Kashmir Valley. Two, they have no courage of conviction to take on the likes of Geelani over his pronouncement of religious sanctity for terrorist violence. Those who dare to speak out meet the fate of Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Maulvi Mushtaq Ahmed or Fazal Haq Qureshi. Three, these so-called moderates are more interested in garnering invitations and donations for conferences and visits from exotic foreign locations. It is thus in their own parochial interest that the Kashmir issue continues to simmer. Engaging them would serve no purpose as they neither have any interest nor the capacity to resolve the issue.

This blogger’s one final peeve is over a myth that Yasin Malik is trying to perpetuate. A self-styled ‘Gandhian’, he is fond of proclaiming that Kashmiris willingly gave up the path of violence in 2008 but the international community hasn’t responded to it favourably. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Read this blogpost to understand how the fencing on the Line of Control and Indian Army’s three-tier deployment brought the violence down in the state. Never have we seen a moderate leader come out with a strong statement, leave alone on to the streets with his supporters to protest against terrorists, their masters across the border in Pakistan or their local supporters in Kashmir.

The edifice of Kashmiri separatism is built upon a foundation of myths, lies, half-truths and concocted facts. It needs to be treated with the contempt that it deserves. The answer lies not in placating these congenital liars and mischief-makers but in strengthening the mainstream parties and politicians in the state — the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, the People’s Conference, the Congress party, the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India. Let it be clear. Like it or not, the route to permanent peace, stability and normality in Kashmir passes through Abdullahs, Muftis, Lones, Azads, Bhim Singhs and others of their ilk.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.