Thursday, 27 January 2011

Delhi a warm haven for hawk Geelani

Delhi a warm haven for hawk Geelani

People shop at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Jan. 27: Oh! to be in Delhi, now that Kashmir’s a bit too c-c-cold.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani has seldom missed a chance to pillory Delhi, but when the Valley gets a tad too chilly for the octogenarian separatist, it’s to the national capital that he heads.

The Hurriyat Conference hardliner today left for Delhi for a “medical check-up”, his spokesperson Ayaz Akbar said.

With a minimum temperature of 7 °C and a maximum of 18-plus, Delhi is, after all, much more hospitable now than Srinagar, where the mercury dips below freezing point at night.

So better “cool out” in Delhi than freeze at home.

This is not the first time the 81-year-old has chosen to spend the winter months in Delhi. He has been doing it for the past few years, reportedly on the advice of doctors. But many in Srinagar say the main reason was to avoid the biting cold here.

Critics of the hardline leader recalled a similar syndrome during the days when everything American was anathema, though it was to the US that Indians headed to get themselves treated.

If the favourite target of pro-Russia Indians then was America and its capitalism, Geelani’s hawk-eyed glare has never left Delhi.

Last October, Geelani had made an anti-India speech at a seminar in the capital and had narrowly escaped being hit by a shoe flung by a Kashmiri Pandit.

Police later filed a sedition case against the Hurriyat leader.

Sources in Srinagar said Geelani normally leaves Kashmir in December to spend some months in Delhi but had to delay his visit this time, fearing he might be “criticised”.

Geelani was at the forefront of the five-month agitation in the Valley last year that left 112 dead. While the streets seethed in anger against excesses by security forces, Geelani issued weekly protest calendars that shut Kashmir down for days.

“Since so many people died here and others suffered enormously, he thought it was not the right time to leave for Delhi at that critical juncture,” a source in the Hurriyat said.

Now that Kashmir has limped back to normal, Geelani decided it was the best time to take off for Delhi’s warmer climes.

His spokesperson Akbar said the visit would be “brief” — “10 to 15 days” — and he had compelling reasons to go.

“The past several days he had been complaining about chest pain and blood was oozing from his mouth in the mornings. He had to go for the medical check-up,” Akbar said.

Hurriyat sources, however, said Geelani might prolong his stay to “avoid the severe cold here”.

But before he left today, Geelani didn’t forget to announce another round of protests.

He called for protests tomorrow against the arrest of separatist leaders and activists still lodged in jails.

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