Sunday, 1 May 2011

Geelani's dilemma -Condemning stone pelting now is pointless

Geelani's dilemma
Condemning stone pelting now is pointless

Syed Ali Shah Geelani is on a fresh statement spree. This time vehemently condemning stone-pelting as a means of resistance. He goes a step further calling stone-pelting as a “failed defensive measure”, citing “it gives no benefit to the freedom cause and hence the youth in Kashmir should desist from pelting stones” [GK, April 30].

The statement is, if not directly, somewhat close to the assertions of a few writers in Kashmir and elsewhere who have been quite often describing stone-pelting as a “menace” and stone-pelters as “anarchists”—the “menace” and “anarchy” whose architect is none other than Geelani himself, if one were to counter Geelani’s statement in one line by agreeing to the assertions. But then there are more lines of disagreement than agreement to set the records right on the issue, especially in the backdrop of Geelani’s fresh assault on stone-pelting.

When the slain religious leader, Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, opposed stone-pelting as a means of resistance last year, it sparked-off a heated debate. And first to hit back at the Moulana was Geelani, who justified stone-pelting saying “those speaking against stone-pelting youth should first study the approach of the armed forces personnel, as there was no comparison between the gun and the stone as the latter could not take human life.” On March 27 last year—after his arrival in Srinagar after a three-month stay in New Delhi— Geelani visited the family of Shahid Ahmad Ahangar in Rainawari who was killed in CRPF firing on protestors in Nauthatta. Speaking at a gathering in Nauthatta where he met the family of detained pro-freedom activist, Aashiq Hussian Rangrez, Geelani said that “the deployment of thousands of armed personnel needlessly in populated areas was a provocation in itself, and it was natural for youth to react with anger and pelt stones.”

That was Geelani of 2010, making it clear that bullet was no answer to the stones and that it was natural for the youth to pelt them in self-defence. The year consumed at least 118 civilians in action by police and paramilitary forces and the killers are yet to be punished. Most of those killed were either the demonstrators or stone-pelters, or bystanders, who were made to understand, of course by Geelani and Co., that “stone pelting is a means of resistance.” And that is why the young demonstrators took to the streets of Kashmir to fight the armed men, caring little about the disproportionate sources of fighting. It was bullets v/s stones for many months. The youth braved bullets, but didn’t enter their homes. They kept fighting. Sacrificed their lives. And those who survived are still facing the onslaught of the state. If stone-pelting was no means of resistance, why didn’t Geelani say it then and save the youth from falling to the bullets of police and CRPF? Why is he doing it now when much blood has been shed? Yes, Geelani did selectively condemn stone-pelting then, but only when we lost a few civilians to stone-pelting, including a 10-day-old boy, Irfan of Baramulla. And to the Indian Express, this is what Geelani once said: “excessive and inexplicable stone-pelting could be the handiwork of the agencies. The death of the infant is appalling. No civilised society would allow it. The youth who were behind the infant’s death are not part of the Azadi struggle.”

That was it when it could have been much more: like support Moulana’s statement, if was required to be supported and clearly state that “stone-pelting is no means of resistance”—if at all that was the case. Didn’t Geelani have moral courage to come clean on the issue? If today he is able to say so, what was the problem yesterday? Whether stone-pelting is a means of resistance or not had to be decided by the leader the very first day when a youth of Kashmir took the stone in hand and was met with bullets? Why did he wait for 118 to fall down? In June last year, a few opinions suggested Geelani not to prolong the agitation and call it a day. Why were they ignored then?

This year, the veteran leader is again into the issue of stone-pelting, God knows why! While the question can only be answered by Geelani himself, his arguments to support that “stone-pelting is a failed strategy” are flawed, to say the least. First the Geelani’s arguments: “Stone pelting proved unsuccessful as a defensive measure; theological debate on stone pelting aside, we have analyzed that it yields no contribution to the cause of freedom. In return we lost 118 youths; The youth were pelting stones as a defensive measure against the bullets but we couldn’t defend ourselves by pelting stones thus losing 118 youths last year.” That “we couldn’t defend ourselves by pelting stones” is a flawed argument and against common sense. Why was Geelani under this impression that stones can fight bullets? Was Geelani expecting armed forces to shower petals in response to the stones? What was Geelani expecting a stone to do? Resistance, Geelani Sahib, you must know is not always about winning and losing. It is about putting a point across which the youth did quite effectively on the streets of Kashmir. And why is now Geelani belittling the sacrifice of the youth of Kashmir by saying that “stone pelting yields no contribution to Kashmir cause.” It may or may not be a means of resistance, but the statement that it “yielded nothing” has the other version as well. For your information Geelani Sahib, if you have been able to get the Dogra Certificate order revoked today, it is only because of that poor man’s taking to streets last year and sacrificing his life. It is that sacrifice of an ordinary boy that made the state to rethink on the Dogra Certificate as it sensed another agitation in the Valley over the controversial issue.

There was no hikmat of Geelani in getting the orders revoked. If my memory supports me, Geelani took the cue from media reports on the issue, 10 days after the Dogra Certificate order was issued! So Geelani Sahib, that is the contribution of those sacrifices to the “cause of freedom” that you are so confused about. The issue of Kashmir is beyond stone-pelting. It is about that honour and dignity of an aam aadmi in Kashmir which has been so brutally mutilated in the past many decades now. And we need not to debate who the doer is!

All said and done. Your ill-timed statements only reflect the moral confusion in the “leadership” on Kashmir. And this is not for the first time Geelani is making an embarrassing statement. Just a few months back, when the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made the remark that “J&K had acceded and not merged to India”, Geelani’s statement followed. It read: “The Chief Minister’s statement is an endorsement of our stand on Kashmir.” That was October 7. But on October 11, this is what Geelani said in another statement: “Omar’s Assembly speech is scripted in New Delhi to hoodwink Kashmiris and restore credibility of his party.”

This confusion merits an explanation. Because the confusion will only compound the problem and raise a question mark on Geelani’s stature and stand on Kashmir; the similar question marks which continue to exist on Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah even after years of his death.

Tail-piece: A confusing statement on an issue only spoils the stature of a leader. And here Geelani, as a respected teacher and a columnist puts it, is himself spoiling his image.

[Faheem Aslam is Senior Editor, Greater Kashmir]

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