The point is all about sticking to one’s principles
‘Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees others’. Winston Churchil
Syed Ali Shah Geelani is not a saint, for sainthood fashions in an aura of spiritual solitude. He is a clay-footed man prone to err and slip. And on many occasions this column too has not spared him either. But what makes him stand out from the cluster of stalwarts and elevates him to the class of his own is his deep conviction and indomitable will. He knows what price one has to pay while remaining loyal to his principles. Inevitably he paid the costs but never let his spirits dampen. He smiled on the challenges but never blinked from the goal.
He remained resolutely committed to what for Hurriyat Conference was floated. As going went tough, cracks began to appear in the conglomerate. His disgust for doublespeak won him the ‘ridicule’ of being ‘extremist’ and ‘rigid’. The forum politics tried to strangulate him by the force of numerical numbers. He preferred to answer to the call of his conscience rather than dissolve his opinion in the vacillating pool of the ‘moderates’ and ‘pragmatists’. Again he stood his ground when he locked horns with his parent body, Jamat-e-Islami. Here again his Azadi streaks did not gel with policy of Jamat and he has to ultimately severe the ideological umbilical cord, despite serving Jamat for fifty years.
He braved all odds and constituted his own party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and a parallel Hurriyat conglomerate. From 2006 he has dominated the political landscape of Kashmir singularly on his own, not on any one’s crutches. His political stature has grown to the ‘tallest of all’ epithets, even to the admission of his staunch rivals. That he knows no escapism has given him the demeanor of an uncompromising figure, a man who would not barter freedom struggle and not reinvent Sheikh Abdullah falling to the bait of power.
Ram Jat Malani heading Kashmir committee (2003) singled Geelani as an obstacle in not making any compromise on Kashmir issue. General Musharaf’s infamous four point plan, that would have nailed resistance movement to naught, without anything concrete getting from India, was shouldered by all, except the bony cage of octogenarian leader. ‘Syed Ali Geelani was the only Kashmiri leader who refused come on board’, Khurshid Mahamood Kasoori, Musharaf’s foreign minister from 2002-2007 told Times of India in an interview on April 25, 2010. Where others rain groveling to Musharaf at Pak embassy in Delhi, Geelani stared him right at face and refused to sign on his dictations.
Geelani’s transparency though has exhausted all options of manoeuvring for Delhi, still they have not given up webs of deceit to snare him in. Last year Ram Jet Malani tried to ‘befriend’ Geelani. Many before tried the same. Now the latest from the two Kashmiri Pundits. All point to misplaced expectations. To warm their way into resistance epidermis of the leader who knows only one face to put on and talk. But every time the truth was out vindicating his stand as a leader.
Two of Modi’s emissaries, Kashmiri speaking Pundit meet him. Showering accolades on him, as some did the same here some time before. They convey Modi will appear in new avatar, departing from his ugly past. His ‘soft image’ will stun us all, they stress. So Geelani is asked to avail the opportunity and get a ‘commitment’ from Modi on K-issue in meeting him.
The exercise was aimed to damage the credibility of Geelani more than an honest endeavor on part of BJP to settle the issue. Geelani has so far strongly shown aversion to such sinister designs. After all how can one expect tiger changing his stripes with any eminent danger to habitat? How can Modi, a carnivorous, turn vegetarian when election victory is sure to increase his adrenalin. BJP was not that naïve as not to know the ideological moorings of Geelani and the unwavering stand he has taken on Kashmir.
Geelani did not name anyone when he disclosed in a press conference that a ‘pro-freedom group’ pinned hope that Modi will turn soft after becoming PM and help in Kashmir resolution and the group was in league with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Jamat-e-Islami and Hurriyat (M) leader Molvi Umar Farooq reacted against the statement. And in different tone.
‘Emotional outbreaks’, says Albert Memmi, ‘are not conducive to a rational examination of events, they engender collective fantasies, veil the truth and lead to sectarian behavior’. And it is here Hurriyat (M) response was not rational in contrast to the Jamat’s which was perfectly matured and in synch with the demands of civility and etiquettes. Add to it the remarks like ‘who the hell is Geelani?’ (GK 20 April, 2014) and the vituperative attack on his person from Umar Sahib. Such approach belittles his political stature and is bereft of rational analysis. Under such provocative atmosphere one can’t but hail Geelani’s dignified response: ‘Let people decide who is right, who is wrong….If somebody has reacted to (my) statement, he is free to do so. Despite ideological differences (I have) no personal grudge against anybody…..’ (GK 20 April, 2014).
It is paramountly important that political leadership, more than any other formation, exercise restraint while reacting on any issue. They should not reduce themselves to laughing symbols.