Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s refusal to open the door to the waiting Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and Sharad Yadav has become a subject of huge national debate. A near uniform public opinion disapproves of the separatist leader’s decision to do so. And this also includes a significant number of the people in Kashmir, who think that by doing so, Hurriyat has forfeited the claim to a moral high ground. But in Kashmir people have little illusion about what prompted the act.
And on their part, separatists have justified the action by arguing that the visiting members of the delegation had no official mandate to hold talks and “such informal parleys lend unnecessary credence to an otherwise pointless exercise”.
“We were never officially invited and at the same time India is blaming us for rejecting the dialogue. It is not only shameful but speaks volumes about their truthfulness, sincerity and clarity. They tried to play a game in which only they could win. They just wanted to discredit us. So we ignored their casual personal gestures,” a Hurriyat statement read. “India is scared of any meaningful dialogue with Hurriyat and Pakistan, as they have occupied this land illegally and forcefully by their military might using repeated lies and unabated surplus violence”
Though two other top separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik also refused to talk, they did exchange pleasantries with the visiting leaders.
It was Geelani who had urged the fellow separatists and the civil society to boycott the delegation. “The parliamentary delegation is coming to Kashmir after passing a resolution that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Therefore this delegation neither has the mandate nor the intention to resolve the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I suggest to all stakeholders to refrain from engaging in this meaningless exercise of meeting this delegation.”
The message had an immediate impact. On Saturday, a day ahead of the delegation’s visit, more than a dozen prominent trading and travel groups held a meeting in Srinagar and decided not to meet. The High Court Bar Association and civil liberties groups followed suit.
“This put the onus on Geelani Sahib to stand at the safest distance from the parliamentarians even if they visited his home, which was highly expected. The decision to keep the door shut was taken beforehand,” said a separatist leader. “There was a fear that opening the gate would have led to a curtsey meeting which in turn would have been sold as a dialogue in New Delhi. This would have discredited Geelani Sahib among the people”.
This is an explanation that has also found takers among the opinion writers in local dailies.
“Closing doors on the legislators is the most appropriate response for an exercise meant for gaining some goodwill for the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly Session. Some people believe India will sell it during the session,” wrote Zahir-u-Din in the leading regional English daily Greater Kashmir. Similarly Gowhar Geelani echoed the line in his column in Kashmir Observer.
“The All Party Delegation members had decided to meet the Hurriyat leaders out of their volition. They had no mandate to discuss Kashmir or resolve Kashmir overnight. The Hurriyat also reserved its right whether to say Yes or No to these individuals. Why this fuss?” questioned Gowhar. “Having said that said I, for one, feel that Geelani Sahib should have at least opened his door to the three visiting parliamentarians, offered them tea, and then said a resounding no”.
Gowhar hoped that rejecting a meeting with an expedient initiative would be the first step “towards a credible dialogue process on Kashmir”.
A similar thinking more or less prevails among the common people in Kashmir. Even though national media has termed it a snub, the decision to turn away the members of the delegation is being generally approved by people in Kashmir, if not Geelani’s decision to shut the door.
“There are two ways to look at it. One, from the point of view of the separatist leaders. And another from that of the people,” says Niyaz Muhammad Khan, a retired high school head master. “At a time of mass uprising when scores of people have been killed and several hundred blinded, separatists couldn’t afford to put their credibility on the line by meeting a few opposition leaders coming on their own accord. And people didn’t expect them to fall for yet another false initiative given the long unproductive history of such outreaches in the past”.