Geelani can pull Kashmir out of abyss if he thinks of it first

Of late the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq faction of the Hurriyat Conference has been quite vocal in asking for a dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue on a permanent basis. This music to the ears is half of a drumbeat as other factions of the Hurriyat, the most important among them being the one led by veteran leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have a different take on the dialogue process.
After last year’s turmoil in Kashmir that devastated the Valley, its image all across the world cannot be repeated all the time. Devastation begets devastation and how many generations can be subjected to this disaster. Separatists need to ask themselves this question.
Geelani is the bold symbol of the resistance ingrained in the minds and hearts of the secessionist section of Kashmiri Muslims. His health is fragile, but he can still the change the course with the help of his younger colleagues. Perhaps, Geelani has not been studied and understood in a proper perspective. His image has been distorted. Sometimes, his own words and rigid stand on Kashmir has helped his critics within the separatist camp and outside to pick holes in his claims that Kashmir would get rid of India.
But as an elderly leader who has seen many summers and winters in more than 60- year-old political career marked by ups and downs, he has a responsibility towards his people. Can he afford to shoulder the burden of one more generation getting consumed by something intangible? He will be held responsible by Kashmiris for whatever happens to them, for they shut their businesses, schools, and lost lives and suffered injuries on his call.
Geelani has been insisting that a dialogue can be initiated only when India accepts that “Kashmir is a dispute.” But the leader should understand that when dialogue is sought, its basic essence is that some issue needs to be resolved. Another thing that the veteran leader should realise is that he is a Kashmiri first. Some quarters view him as a Pakistani.
There are several wrongs committed by the government. To date, it is not clear why is he under house arrest and under what charges? And, if the charges are so severe then why should he not be put on trial? The government cannot keep an ailing leader in the confines of four walls of his house and then knock and expect him to walk and sit across the table. It is not only his responsibility to create the walk-the talk atmosphere but also that of the government of the day.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had offered his condolences to Geelani when his daughter died. That was a humanitarian gesture. Many in the National Conference had then grumbled that why should the Prime Minister be offering condolences to a separatist leader who was challenging the Indian sovereignty in Kashmir, but the answer lay in the fact that humanitarian gestures are much above politics. Likewise, Modi had wished Nawaz Sharif good health despite the tense relations between the two countries.
Geelani, Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah must look around and see where Kashmir is struggling to stand today. They have the pen to script the next chapter – it can be blood red or apple red. Kashmir’s generations want to blossom like apples and roses and not see blood running on the landscape. It is time the separatists chose their path.
When Geelani was chairman of the United Hurriyat Conference, he had declared that “Kashmiris have not given power of attorney to Pakistan to speak on their behalf with India, we will speak ourselves as Kashmiris.” It is time, as a Kashmiri, he should speak up for Kashmiris. Geelani can pull Kashmir out of the dark room, provided he wishes to in realistic terms as a “Kashmiri first.”