Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, 90, has resigned from his faction of the Hurriyat Conference, 17 years after he was chosen as its lifetime head, citing the inability of the leaders of the grouping to raise their voice against the Centre’s move to divest Jammu & Kashmir of its special status in August last year as one reason. He also blamed internal bickering, financial irregularities within the grouping’s Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) chapter, and attempts by its leaders to seek positions of power.
In an audio message released on social media on Monday, Geelani said he has apprised leaders of the constituents of his Hurriyat faction about his decision to quit through a detailed letter. Later, the letter also surfaced on social media.
Geelani criticised the Jammu & Kashmir-based constituents of the grouping saying he tried hard to reach those leaders, who were not jailed in August last year, despite his detention so that they could raise their voice against the Centre’s move. He added the leaders were unavailable then.
“Now that today you have felt the heat of being questioned, that the veil is slipping off your financial irregularities, you have started to convene meetings and support an unconstitutional decision thereby setting a strange example of unity,” Geelani said in the letter.
It wasn’t immediately clear as to who would succeed Geelani who, along with the Hurriyat itself, has increasingly become a fringe player in Kashmir, especially after the Centre abrogated Article 370 and split the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories.
Geelani is currently under house arrested and could not be reached for comment.
Geelani, who has been under house arrest since long and was instrumental in organizing massive street protests since 2008, has been ailing from some time. A cancer survivor, Geelani has also undergone kidney and gallbladder removal surgeries.
Almost all separatist leaders were detained in August 2019 when Article 370 was nullified to divest Jammu & Kashmir of its special, semi-autonomous status. Three former chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti, were also among hundreds of people, who were detained to prevent protests against the Centre’s move. Mufti still remains under detention although the Abdullahs have been released.
A communications blackout and a lockdown were imposed in Kashmir last year in August when Jammu & Kashmir was also divided into two Union territories.
The separatist leadership has since maintained a low profile even as Geelani has occasionally been releasing statements. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq leads the other Hurriyat faction. Mirwaiz is under house arrest.
In his letter, Geelani cited several complaints about the PoK chapter of the grouping over the last two years. “The leaders there were trying to be part of government and ministries. There were internal bickering, fear of losing posts, financial irregularities, and many other issues. Recently after investigations, some people were expelled and as the investigations were going on against other people, the representatives of your parties started calling separate so-called meetings which led to the dissolution of the chapter till further orders,’’ said Geelani.