It has been almost two weeks since the veteran leader and chairman
Hurriyat (G) Syed Ali Geelani in an interview to Rising Kashmir said that the people of Kashmir have failed the
leadership and the leadership has not let them down. Since then the debate is
on, and for many people the statement of Geelani at this point has become a
subject of analysis and interpretation. While the debate has spiraled with the
local newspapers and social media taking up that thread and even snowballed
into controversies, the essential message has been more or less misconstrued
creating chaos and a fiery situation.
After reading the interview and its responses, the content of the interview has been selectively used to reflect certain biases that readers themselves are inclined to. The interview has been misread as some readers seem to have been waiting for the octogenarian leader to say something like that. The words were certainly blown out of proportion and as it happens with such discourses some part of the context is often missing.
Here I am quoting in full what actually Syed Geelani has said: “Geelani while referring to the massive participation of people in elections said the leaders cannot be blamed for letting people down. He said if people do not pay heed to the leaders for boycotting polls, it was their weakness and this failure should not be attributed to the leadership. People had failed the leaders not vice versa. People should always give preference to free themselves from occupation rather than other necessities. Kashmiris give preference to roads, daily wage jobs, universities, flyovers, shopping malls and other such things but they fail to understand this is never going to set us free.”
There is nothing wrong in Geelani’s remark which reflects a casual opinion, as people without any exception would say the same and indeed believe in the same. The failure was said in context to the flip-flop attitude of people towards the movement and other priorities, which is an unchallenged fact. It is equally true the leader must have weighed the words beforehand. Truth is that people do not want to hear about their own misgivings and always wait for opportunity to shift the blame on others.
I am not suggesting that we should not ask questions to our leadership, we have every right to do so, but we should always keep the context in mind. If we read and examine this part of interview that has turned into a major controversy isn’t he right? Have people not voted? Have they not betrayed leaders by welcoming RSS elements? Have they not betrayed martyrs by participating in rallies that everyone knows are anti Kashmir? The answer is yes, but it so bitter to listen and admit that people would play ostrich than face the reality. What is worse is they want a senior leader to make saccharine-sweet statements, invoke false hopes and tell them lies instead of depicting the reality.
There are two sections of people who have taken up the “failed” statement of Geelani. One section is those people who just don’t want to put the blame on themselves and all those who have been working at cross-purposes to the movement. In terms of contributing they have not even had time to write few lines but at the same time to satisfy their egos go on endlessly debating on social and other media. The second section of the people seems to be those who have been waiting for an opportunity to discredit the leader and his party. The responses of the people therefore reveal their own prejudices than what is said and meant. Arguing, questioning, and debating is good and a constructive exercise but not at the cost of personal or political grudges.
Syed Ali Geelani is one among the leaders who has taken the Kashmir discourse to its heights by his steadfast commitment to the cause. At the same time he is the first leader who has stoked such a debate by placing the blame partly where it should be. He is not a politician who cares only about votes and tries to appease the people all the times. It is politicians who blame other politicians for the mess which never gets cleaned because of the choices that people make.
Here is a man who has spoken the truth and tried to show us what most of us don’t want to see. How long are the people of Kashmir going to hide behind the façade that none of it is our fault? People must learn to fix responsibilities on them and others as it is not only the leaders who are supposed to spoon-feed the people.
Now two leaders, or two persons can be compared in terms of what they have given to Kashmir or what they intended to give to Kashmir. Still there is some commonalty that serves to enlighten us. There is a sizeable number of people who counter argue that Sheikh Abdullah lacked commitment because of the lack of commitment shown by people of Kashmir who because of their misplaced passions were keen to join any rally and event. Still the dominant discourse is that Sheikh Abdullah betrayed his people for his own convenience. But the subject of the debate is open to critical examination and investigation.
Geelani is definitely not the person who carved any deal for his comfort and convenience with New Delhi. He has not budged an inch from his stand despite all kind of ploys and lucrative offers put by New Delhi. When a person or an individual picks up the knick-knacks in the form of scholarship, a sponsored job or trip, an award, he is not subject to criticism. Why? Why should there be a different scale to measure the leaders? Is that not the failure of the people to resist those temptations and offers? Where is then Geelani wrong?
There have been numerous attempts to show Geelani and other leaders in bad light. The minority victimization has been thrust on them under sinister agendas. When did Geelani say anything like what some rabid Hindu leaders are openly saying against Muslims in rallies? Did the leader not make calls for reconciliation and harmony among communities? Is Geelani responsible for communal incidents like Jammu attack on truck driver or Indian politicians? Pandits don’t have problem with Geelani or other Hurriyat leaders, they have problem with pro-Kashmir stand of these leaders which goes contrary to Indian belief where their interests lie.
Another point picked from the interview is the role of gun. There can be a healthy debate on means to achieve ends. He is the only leader in Hurriyat camp who has not shied away from saying that it’s good if youth are taking up guns. To be again on record here is what he actually said, “It is good that they are doing it but told them to be cautious never to trample the human rights of the people, never to trespass them. We cannot call it violence as these youth are fighting for their rights with different means.” This statement was also blown out of proportion. People paid more attention to guns than a more important point “never to trample the human rights of the people, never to trespass them”. That is hypocrisy. In a movement, people opt for various means of protests. If Gandhi protested silently then Bhaghat Singh protested violently with guns.
He may not have roadmap for Kashmir at present. He may have failed us a number of times. Some of us may even loathe him. We may not like his hartal politics. Yes, there may be other number of differences with him. But he is an unparalleled leader who has kept the cultural ethos of the state intact. Saner and rational members of Sikh and Pandit community go to him to seek solutions to their problems.
Kashmiri should also bear in mind that the times are tough for the people and the third party thrives on the divide between people and leaders. They will not leave an inch to widen this gap. Disregarding and disrespecting Hurriyat leader should never be our motive be it Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar or Yasin Malik. Yes criticism is our right and we will always criticize our leaders when we feel they go astray but it in no way means we will allow third player to discredit our leaders.
As the above stated interview of Syed Geelani said “love him or hate him, you just can’t ignore him”. Certainly we can't ignore the grand old man of Kashmir.
The author can be maild at firstname.lastname@example.org