With Geelani’s death, Hurriyat stares at a leadership void

Though the group had been grooming Mohammad Ashraf Khan alias Sehrai, Geelani’s close aide to take over the reins of the separatist amalgam, Sehrai’s died of Covid-19 last year
Syed Ali Shah Geelani passed away at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)
Syed Ali Shah Geelani passed away at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)
Published on Sep 03, 2021 02:02 AM IST
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By, Srinagar

The death of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is set to create a big void in the rank and file of the Hurriyat Conference that till last year was led by Geelani and separatist politicos.

Geelani, during his prolonged illness, had resigned from the All Party Hurriyat Conference last year which he led for almost 17 years. Though the group had been grooming Mohammad Ashraf Khan alias Sehrai, Geelani’s close aide to take over the reins of the separatist amalgam after Geelani, Sehrai’s death last year at a Jammu jail due to Covid-19 has been a big blow to the group. Sehrai was leading the Tahreek-e-Hurriyat that was formed by Geelani, however, after Sehrai’s death nobody was announced as his successor.

Even after Geelani’s resignation from the chairmanship of his faction, nobody was named in his place, though Abdullah Geelani, who is in Pakistan, claimed to represent Geelani by issuing statements on different occasions.

“Geelani’s death is a big loss to the separatist politics of Kashmir. After his death, nobody of his stature is within the rank and file of his faction Hurriyat who can replace him,” said a senior separatist leader who wished anonymity. “The two deaths, first Mohammad Ashraf Sehria and now Geelani is big setback for the separatist movement in J&K. I don’t see any other leader having such capacity or capability to replace Syed Ali Geelani who had decades of political experience and a huge following, especially among youth.”

Post abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two UTs, the separatist leadership is under tremendous pressure and majority of the leaders are either in jail or have gone into hibernation. Occasionally, press statements were issued in Geelani’s name, which, police say, were being issued from Pakistan.

With Geelani gone, now it remains to be seen who will replace him as there is not a single person in the separatist camp who holds sway on people like Geelani did.

The faction will now look towards another jailed leader Masrat Alam, chairman of Muslim League, however, it will take years for Alam to reach to the stature of Geelani and under current circumstances, it’s very difficult for Alam to be released from jail. With the death of Geelani, all eyes will be focused on Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who is under house arrest after the revocation of Article 370 and most of separatist leaders will look towards him.

Pervaz Majeed, who teaches journalism at Amar Singh College, Srinagar, said that Geelani had an experience and was witness to three generations of political shift and in that respect, nobody could have been of his “stature” in separatist politics. “For Islamist separatists, it’s going to be a big and irreplaceable loss,” said Majeed.

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Friday, January 21, 2022