Analysis: Does Geelanis resignation mark waning of separatism?

 thehindu.com  06/29/2020 17:29:04  2

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. His resignation reportedly was submitted in a huff over the Pakistan-based Hurriyat and Pakistan's response to the Kashmir situation post August 5, 2019.

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 Hurriyats response to the Centres decision to revoke J&Ks special status last year.

It remains to be seen if Mr. Geelani will also resign from his own party, the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, besides the amalgam. 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, whether it was India or Pakistan or the mainstream political parties.

Mr. Geelani has crafted an image for himself of someone who has safeguarded and nurtured an ideology, which was a mix of nativism and religion.

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 fast-growing militant cadre then. However, neither age nor health nor recent political events favour Mr. Geelani any more.

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 taking the charge.

The timing of Mr. Geelani's decision is also significant. It comes at a time when the Centres 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.

The move is likely to put pressure on the head of the other Hurriyat faction Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to redeem his image and take a stand on the political developments that have unfolded in the last 10 months.

Will Mr. Geelani's resignation mark the setting of separatism in Kashmir? The answer will be known in the coming months and the approach adopted by New Delhi.

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