An End of an Era

With the passing away of Jenab Syed Ali Shah Geelani Sb at 10.30 pm on Sept.1st, 2021, a long chapter involving his stewardship as an undisputed leader of the Resistance Movement and of struggle and sacrifice in the recent political history of Kashmir has come to an end. However, as always, Kashmiris who held him in the highest esteem and feel deeply saddened by his demise, were not allowed to have his last glimpse nor to mourn his death as the valley finds itself locked up yet again, resulting in hordes of his followers and the people of Kashmir not being allowed to gather at his place of residence to condole his death and to offer commiseration to the bereaved family.

Like millions of Kashmiris who loved and deeply respected him for his ideals, convictions and for his impeccable track record in public life, I always adored him for his steadfastness and single minded devotion to a cause that he never  swerved from under intense pressure from different quarters and even in exchange for the world of plenty and surfeit that would have been laid at his feet, as a quid pro quo if you like. What is worth noting is the awe and admiration that he would command even from his diehard critics and adversaries regardless of what would sometimes come across as his stubborn unwillingness to climb down from his long held positions on issues surrounding Kashmir and the Kashmir Movement.

I join all Kashmiris living in Kashmir and elsewhere in the world in mourning his death and in praying for the spirit of his sacrifices to continue inspiring generations of Kashmiris for a nonviolent and peaceful struggle for justice and a life of honour and dignity for the people of Kashmir. If it had not been for the usual knee jerk reaction by the ever-so-unsure-of-itself J&K Administration and acting as if on a cue from the Centre, a sea of humanity would have descended at the funeral site to bid adieu to the departed soul who was held in deep reverence by the people of Kashmir. One wonders why don’t they wake up to the futility of a frequent resort to overkill and such cheap tactics as the use of maximum force to suppress free speech and to curb free flow of information by withdrawing such important services like telephone or the internet connectivity that haven’t achieved anything for them other than earning them extreme contempt and disdain for what are clearly acts of brazen violation. 

Coming to his stature as a leader, honestly I don’t come across any ‘leader’ or politician in contemporary India or in the entire subcontinent who could be seen coming even remotely close in stature to SAS Geelani who stood tall for his great leadership qualities involving honesty of purpose, uprightness in thought and action, diehard allegiance to the Kashmir cause, selfless dedication and exemplary courage and consistency in his approach to the Idea of freedom, liberty and of slavery. The point is not that he had fought for a cause that was great and ought to have been seen as such by all and sundry. It’s the courage of his convictions and consistency of his stand on those convictions that was by far the most distinguished feature of his political life. All the same, that’s not to say that he didn’t have to be faulted for error of judgement that indeed may be seen as chinks in his otherwise impressive armour that was the hallmark of his long and chequered public life. However, I see that essentially as part of a baggage of human frailties to which, one ought to understand, we all are vulnerable in our own ways.

sHis shot at mainstream politics as an MLA in the J&K Legislative Assembly may actually be seen as part of a ‘plan of action’ as conceived by him to test the waters and to evaluate the possibility of a plunge into mainstream politics resulting in a facilitation or otherwise of the prospects of realising the dream of a Kashmir that was free from the shackles of slavery and subjugation. As it turned out, he had soon learned that he couldn’t hope to see his vision being realised while continuing to stay ensconced in mainstream politics. But he had his critics too, and in oodles for sure, including some of those from within the valley but mostly from mainland India. And that’s perfectly understandable.

Finally, the J&K administration has not painted itself in glory by denying the deceased and his family the right to a decent burial. Instead, it had chosen to threaten to remove his body to an undisclosed location for burial under the exclusive watch of the police and the paramilitary forces, unless it was arranged by his close family members to complete the entire labyrinthine burial procedure before the break of dawn, never mind the fact that he had breathed his last barely six hours ago at 10.30 pm. In such circumstances, what is left for the vast multitudes of followers to do other than to pray for eternal peace to the departed soul and for the highest place for him in Jann’at.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by M A Sofi


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