The Geelani debate

The current debate on the comments made by Geelani Sahib informs us about the hollowness we are carrying as intellectuals of a distressed nation.
The Geelani debate
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The current debate on the comments made by Geelani Sahib informs us about the hollowness we are carrying as intellectuals of a distressed nation.  Some writers who have access to some local newspapers do not leave any space unturned to feed their nasty emotions to a readymade Facebook savvy population who within fractions of time share their endorsements of views that stand on both sides of the line. Though being critical about the debate, one should also recognise the process of questioning that has started among the people against 'sacred' thing that has been taboo until now. We are debating two things here. First, "people have failed the movement" and second, "gun" as solution.  When we debate the first one, we consider whether people have failed movement or leadership and in a mix we say whether both have failed the movement. By this discussion, we draw a foregone conclusion that Kashmir Movement has failed. Perhaps we had waited for opening up of a Pandora's box that was empty at end or we assumed a matriculation type result where the gazetteer failed us. Though we have some imagination about meaning of success of the movement, may be an independent state or merger with other state through plebiscite. Before these ends points, the movement is about every bit of our daily lives, small failures and success, little joys and mourning, and hence everything else we live under heavy military control. 

What do nonviolent popular uprisings of 2008 and 2010 speak about the movement? Whatever it speaks, we are hardly speaking about them, because we had perhaps assumed them to be decisive for freedom of Kashmir, a moonwalk of liberation. Let's not usher into this debate though it is very important and discuss what we are discussing. We are at final point that Hurriyat called off the long Hartal calendar thus broke the momentum of something that was supposed to deliver something only they know. At the same time Hurriyat accuse public of being concerned about education of children and other amenities which actually requested or forced Hurriyat to stop the long running calendar. No doubt 2008 and 2010 have been two major events after 1989 armed uprising that is shaping present discourse on Kashmir conflict, but to deem them as potential end points is a complete misreading of Kashmir in the current political scenario. At the Eidgah Chalo Rally, in 2008, there developed a situation where emotions went high, as if we have done the job; the long throngs coming from every little street, food and water stall everywhere for commuters, no vehicles entering these crowded places and a huge gathering for Syed Ali Shah Geelani- everything was organised at least from masses. What happened there, nobody wants to speak about but we know they even failed to deliver a small ceremonial speech. It is somewhere linked to TRC comment of Geelani Sahib where he asked people whether they accept him as their leader. Nobody knows what forced him to say that but for a farthest spectator like me, it seems they fight internally to occupy space at stage in public events. 

 We know there is will, and there is way to go about the final goal of the movement, but we have to consider the longevity and intractability of Kashmir conflict where we can't pack everything into these discrete emotions to sooth our psychological delusions and deprive real tangible needs and prospectus. Understanding Kashmir movement as a process rather than an event will help us to look at things with a right perspective and also put our discourse in proper context. 

Alas, whenever, dear leaders of Qoum, I mean those leaders, sacred ones, other than the 'mainstream', deliver their khutba to people, one central idea is that people cannot forget the sacrifices rendered by martyrs towards the cherished cause of freedom. They may cater to the emotional and religious sensibilities of the masses, but cannot constitute as the sole rationale for the continuance as well as the participation in the movement. If we go by this argument, we will have least justification for 1989 uprising against Indian rule. If only sacrifices were to suffice to free a nation then it should have long back been in our bag seeing the huge chunk sacrifices rendered by Kashmir towards the cause.

By virtue of being humans, we have a considerable faculty for emotions. In some situations, leaders, academics, researchers and also people respond to the situational needs and they may in such situations proclaim the necessity of an armed response. However, such things are situational in nature and die with situation or small events. In some events, emotions flare-up but are they rational ones considering the Indian machinations in Kashmir. One has to differentiate situational needs from the strategies. By strategy, I mean long term planning and approach towards the goal of the movement. If we analyse the history of Kashmir Conflict, the struggle for freedom or right to self-determination has been conducted by nonviolent means through conventional politics by organised political parties like the Plebiscite Front in the 60s and 70s. By the rarest of rare the sudden burst of armed uprising took place in 1989 but sooner those pioneers responding to the changing realities adopted nonviolent strategy. Perhaps they understood nonviolence is nothing less than active fighting and not a sin or shame but only a more viable modus operandi. Surely the disproportionate power differential between two rivals must have played a role in their thinking. 

In the current debate, I was particularly astonished by Geelani Sahibs comment that leaders are born, not made. That is a chicken-egg debate but in our boat if Geelani Sahib believes, he is the captain, it is not because he is a born captain but he is trusted by people, the sailors. Personally, I wouldn't call him leader of a nation but simply another politician who has a following because circumstances are forcing people into a situation where they feel his corner is a better refuge. By virtue of honesty, religiosity and fearlessness, his speaking truth to power has undoubtedly made him a hero and a respected politician even in camp of opponents but his stagnant politics have done nothing considerable, but I understand history is not about days and months. If Hurriyat thinks Kashmir Movement has failed, then I must say they have failed absolutely in reading the movement while the spirit of nation is alive in every bit of Kashmir. 

(Waseem Ahmad Shah is a PhD scholar, at Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Sikkim University).
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