Geelani Release- A Way Forward

Syed Ali Geelani

It might have been festive day for nonagenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani, when he offered congregational Friday prayers, obligatory on all Muslims at the Jamia Masjid, Hyderpora, some two hundred yards from his residence. For about, three thousands days, five times a day Muezzin had been calling on him from the Masjid in his neighborhood to join the congregational prayers,but for his house detention, he could not respond to Allah’scalling. More than physical confinement, that has been part of his fifty eight years political struggle it might have been spiritually tormenting for him.

In 2010-, Omar Abdullah led National Conference,and Congress alliance government put him under house-detention. Three years, later in October 2013, restrictions on his movement were lifted, just after three weeks for pulling hugely enthusiastic crowds in the South and North Kashmir, he was again put under house-arrest. The contingents of police stationed outside his residence controlled ingress and egress to his house. There were reports in newspapers that on occasion’s men in uniform prevented his immediate kin from visiting the house. It were the handouts on all smaller or bigger developmentsand happenings in and around the state issuedon daily basis byhis the Hurriyat (G)that only connected him with the press and people.

In fact, Geelani’s house detention symbolized the shrinkage of space to all kinds of public dissent – political activities to student activism on all the campuses. No elections were allowed for students unions on the campuses.

In 2014, there was a change of guard in the state, the BJP in alliance with the PDP for the first time entered the corridors of power in the state. Interestingly, some leaders under the resistance canopy expected, the new dispensation unlike its predecessors in office allowing big space for the voices of the dissent. Moreover, castigating the Congress leadership for its hideous and deceitful policy towards Kashmir a section of the resistance leadership expected the Modi government to revive the “Vajpayee policy on Kashmir.”In 2013, Indian Prime Minister in a speech had that Kashmir “issues can be resolved if we are guided by three principles of Insaniyat (Humanism), Jamhooriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat.  It did not happen. Instead, the policy of strangulating all space for the voices of dissent initiated during Omar Abdullah government continued to be the gospel for the PDP-BJP alliance led by Mufti Mohammad Syed and his daughter.  The PDP-BJP alliance not only perpetuated the housearrest of Syed Ali Geelani but also prevented Mirwaiz Omar Farooq on a good number of Friday’s from offering congregational prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid. Historically, the Jamia Masjid after 1819, when Ranjeet Singh’s governors had locked it for the first time devotees were stopped from saying prayers on so umpteen Fridays in this seven hundred year old Masjid- something unprecedented in two hundred years.Every space was denied to another leader of the JRL Mohammad Yasin Malik. Lots of political workerswere detained under the Public Safety Act and hundreds youth jailed and put in lock ups. In 2016, another brutal chapter as described by the New York Times, the year of dead eyes’- pelleting to blindness hundreds of children and youthwas addedto theblood soaked contemporary history of Kashmir.

Some responsible newspapers, reeling under undeclared censorship within their limited freedom,had warned Srinagar and NewDelhi authorities against the inherent dangers of choking public space and pushing the youngergenerations to the wall. The summers of dissents during 2008, 2009 and 2010, had attracted international headlines and caused thousands of columns on the Kashmir problem calling upon the contesting parties to seize the opportunity for resolving this outstanding dispute. For the first time, intellectuals in India had joined the international chorus and called upon New Delhi to address the problem that had caused four wars, two dangerous stand offs andbrought South-Asia to the brink of a nuclear war.  Journalists and opinion writers from Vir Sanghvi to Swaminathan Aiyar had fairly analyzed the dispute in its historical context and come up with an honest opinion for the resolution of the dispute.

For putting the 19 year “armed struggle” or “insurgency” on the backseat, the 2008 and 2009 summers of dissent followed by the 2010-Intifada were seen as a major paradigm shift- from violence to peaceful protests. This paradigm shift many analysts believed provided space for engaging the resistance leadership of the state and finding an amicable settlement of the dispute. Largerly three summers of peace followed the three summers of dissent.Nevertheless, the Congress government instead of building upon the opportunities offered by the peaceful dissents and waning armed resistance, and recognizingthe harsher historical realities of the problem and initiating a genuine dialogue chose to stifle all the voices of dissent. Denied space to leaders of stature and intriguingly pooh-poohed the idea of opening a dialogue with a section of Kashmir leadership Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had engaged in 2005 and promised to continue the engagement.

The ‘coerced peace’ bursted like a soap bubble after  Mohammad Afzal Guruwas put to the gallows. Millions lulled to curfew for weeks, but, the bullying a brutal tactics did not blunt the pent-up anger instead sharpened it further. The strangulating all public space for the voices of dissent in a way is comparable to the rigged 1987 elections that had seen huge participation of younger generation. The denialof fair elections in 1989 had worked as a catalyst for the birth of militancy equally strangulating all space for voices of dissent,and repressive tactics have not also augured well for the state.

Four days back, the banner headlines in newspaper read, “Jammu and Kashmir Police chief says Geelani, Mirwaiz, and Malik free, but with a rider: ‘don’t make anti-national speeches.” Next day, Geelani offered prayers in a Masjid in his neighborhood, Mohammad Yasin Malik addressed a congregation at Soura and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at the Jamia Masjid. Let us not get embroiled in the polemics whether such a decision of bigger political import should have been announced by the chief executive or an administrator instead see it as a way forward towards building bridges that could help in initiating a meaningful dialogue between all the contesting parties for the resolution of the longstanding dispute. To see a meaningful dialogue happen, the contemporary history offers more than one lesson to those who really matter; that in framing the Kashmir policy it is not arm-twisting, pursuing policies like ‘catch and kill’ or brutal doctrines named ‘all-out’   but providing adequate space to the voices of dissent to articulate their point of view that could help in a big way.

The history testifies, the formulas like ‘fatigue them to exhaustion,’ ‘coerce them to submission’ did not work for past seventy years, more particularly 1990, did not work – the best course to recognize the historical realties and resolve the issue through a peaceful dialogue.

Columnist and Writer

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