My name is Geelani And my life is an open book

The name of this book, for us readers and for the posterity, is Wulur Kinaray. A voluminous autobiography of Syed Ali Shah Gelani, the second volume of which was released just sometime back. The first volume was already out last year, and the third one is still with the author. We hope, and pray, that he completes it soon and gives us some more interesting glimpses into his life and times. An eventful life and a challenging task that he took to himself must be documented for the posterity.

Here I’m not, in a typical sense, writing a review of the book. All I do is to pen down some of my impressions on the contents of this book. What one feels while going through the pages of the book, and how the life of Syed Ali Shah Geelni can benefit the younger generation of Kashmir. How the book helps us in understanding the post 1947 politics of Kashmir and most importantly how Jama’t-e-Islami engaged with the Kashmir dispute, while working for the socio-cultural transformation of Kashmir’s Muslim society. Wulur Kinaray is a moving narration on all this. You get to know people and events from a person who was in the company of those persons and in the thick of those events. History can’t be more gripping if it is told by a person who was a part of that history. It is a running commentary of sorts, and all the readers in Kashmir can identify their persons more intimately with one or the other patch of this narration. May be a huge rally that you were a part of, may be a person mentioned who you knew well, may be a village, a mohalla, a spot, that belongs to you. May be sometimes it crawls over your skin that Geelani Sahab is just passing through you house, meeting your relative, talking to an acquaintance, delivering a speech at your mosque, or a public place in your locality. May be sometimes you peek out of your window in the expectation that now he is about to knock your door and educate you about his cherished subjects of Islam and Kashmir dispute. That way the book is a live company, such a wonderful experience for a reader.

Among many other things that struck me in this book is the Geelani’s encounter with a team of investigative agencies interrogating him in the Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC), Jammu. He is subjected to a volley of questions – from person to family to party – he answers them all in a very composed manner. He doesn’t have anything to hide. This exhausts the head of the team who finally puts his pen down and remarks – ‘His life is an open book.’

Here, one wants to make a point. Any political movement, if it has to connect to people and work for radical changes, must be open, transparent and accessible. This is a pre-requisite. Jama’t-e Islami worked amongst people in open spaces, in a democratic and peaceful manner. This made it easier for people to get engaged with it. It also disarmed the state to a great extent. Jama’t-e Islami could generate a quality leadership only when it was open and democratic in its conduct. A galaxy of great souls – Maulana S’ad ud Din, Maulana Ahrar, Qari Saif ud Din, Hakim Ghulam Nabi – all these were public figures. People knew them and they knew people well. It is out of this knowledge of each other that the real and effective leadership emerges. Geelani Sahab himself has attained the stature of a leader only when he traversed the known spaces of public interaction.

What happened after 1990s squeezed those spaces. The real challenge for Geelani Sahab and his party lies in opening up those spaces of interaction. True, that state apparatus have chocked those spaces, but there must be a way to disarm the enemy, if not defeat it right away. After all Geelani Sahab has worked through worst of times and never stopped. He must give us a lead in how to reclaim those spaces. Spaces for thinking about future.

And yes, thinking reminds me of the importance of the title of this book. Wulur Kinaray is not just about where Geelani as a body was born and brought up. It is a mental realm created by Iqbal, where Geelani as a soul flourished. Look what the great man said;

Himala Kai Chashmai Ublatai Kab tak
Khizr Sochta hai Wulur Kai Kinaray
Khidr, standing by the Wulur, thinks:
When will the Himalayas’ springs burst forth?

So the Wulur Kinaray is the spot of reflection for us. Locale of our thinking.

If this book can actually push us into thinking, it is a great moment for us. How a party like Jama’t-e-Islami was formulated. How it threw up souls like Maulana S’ad ud Din, Maulana Ahrar, Qari Saif ud Din, Hakim Ghulam Nabi, and the author himself. How it worked with an unmitigated passion. And of course, what were its inadequacies? It must invoke thinking.

Not only Jama’t–e-Islami and its members, but others that Geelani Sahab mentions in his book; people like Fazl Haq Quereshi, an unassuming person, some less known people who have contributed to Kashmir’s politics and society, and yes, unknown youth facing torture at the hands of Indian troops, all these characters in Wulur Kinaray is an open and standing invitation to renewed thinking. Wulur can one day be really ours if only we don’t give up thinking.
There are lots of things in this book that deserve a fuller discussion, but the column space is too little to hold that all. The book will invite more debate and sure it won’t spare GK columns; this one included.