Crisis of Moderates
The art of defining oneself through the politics of Geelani
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
In the intense blame game that has followed the failure of the previous summer’s political unrest, Valley has witnessed a conspicuous deepening of division between moderate and hardline separatists. The period has spawned a discourse that blames the Hurriyat (G) of messing up a spontaneous popular groundswell by trying to artificially extend it through shutdown calendars. It also accuses the faction of trying to manipulate a natural outpouring of public sentiment to suit its political agenda. In fact, Hurriyat (G) is being blamed for not only messing up 2010 uprising but all the three of them since 2008 by obsessively trying to project itself rather than simply letting the overwhelming sentiment on the ground play itself out.
In recent weeks, this discourse has graduated to a new and more daring level. Hurriyat (G) chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani is accused of responding to only the human rights violations perceived to have been committed by the security forces. This is why when the two sisters were recently killed in Sopore by the unidentified gunmen, Geelani suddenly became the centre of attention. All that a section of moderates seemed to be interested in was how Geelani would respond to the tragedy. A leader who had spearheaded a Valleywide ferment against the alleged rape and murder of the two women in Shopian was expected to rise up to the occasion and lead a similar campaign against the killings in Sopore. And in the process, nobody noticed that the state’s major mainstream party PDP didn’t as much as issue a customary condemnation statement about the incident.
Geelani, on the other hand, did slam the sisters’ killing in the strongest words possible and even sent a Hurriyat delegation to Sopore to offer condolences to the family. He even called for a Sopore shutdown against the killings which was faithfully observed in the town. But this was not deemed enough. Geelani was expected to do more. For example, to call for a Valleywide hartal, in fact a series of them, and also lead a protest campaign demanding the identity of the gunmen and their punishment like he did in case of Shopian. This discourse was still on when the army killed a youth in Handwara while sneaking across to another village in the night to meet his beloved. Army said the youth was killed by mistake in the course of an ambush laid out for the militants. But this in no way justified the killing of an innocent youth and the torture marks on his body. The youth’s killing, however, seemed to bring on par the excesses by the security forces and the unidentified gunmen and in the process – albeit cynically – absolving the both of their sins.
However, what was curious, was the way many moderates looked to Geelani for the response and tried to turn it into a test of sorts for his brand of politics. It was said that he went whole hog over Shopian and now let him go the distance on Sopore. He shut Valley down for five months last year over daily killings of innocent youth, now he should also announce a series of them over Sopore. And both Geelani’s refusal to measure up to these expectations or even meeting them halfway is held against him.
The objective here is not to defend Geelani against these accusations. Some of these might actually be echoing the shades of public sentiment in Kashmir. But it is to reveal the lingering and now growing tendency among some moderates to scapegoat Geelani for the general failure of the three consecutive separatist uprisings since 2008 and get away with it.
The point is how could they absolve themselves by directing criticism at Geelani. And the pertinent and much larger question: why Geelani despite all his blunders continues to be a leader with mass following and enjoy political credibility while the moderates despite all their unilateral claims to moral high ground and possession of the knowledge of the best possible strategy miserably struggle to establish their political bonafides. What is it that makes Geelani important, gets him mass support and also monopolize separatist politics. And what is it that denies the carping moderates the confidence of the people.
Or to put it more bluntly if Geelani baulked at issuing a protest programme over Sopore, what stopped the moderates from giving one themselves. Or leave Sopore alone - it was anyway a tough call – why they couldn’t make an issue out of the youth’s killing in Handwara. Or if they thought Geelani was hijacking the 2010 unrest what stopped them from stepping in and nudge it back in the right direction. And not being able to do so reveals a deep crisis among the moderates: a continuing inability to establish their credibility and at the same a degree of diffidence to prosecute a political campaign or take a moral stand. Instead, they have tried to play on the slip-ups of Geelani. Some of them completely define themselves through Geelani’s politics. What we have as a result is a separatist narrative that is uni-dimensional and entirely Geelani-driven. Moderates are not only not part of the political discourse but have also lost the capacity to drive an agenda. This is why, next time they think Geelani messed up an agitation, they have no one but themselves to blame.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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