SRINAGAR: Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday demanded the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, as leaders of the moderate Hurriyat faction spoke about independence and a dialogue over the state.
Addressing a mammoth gathering at the tourist reception centre here, Gillani said there was "no solution to the Kashmir issue other than merger with Pakistan".
"We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is us because we are tied with the country through Islam," he roared, as the crowd cheered him and chanted: "Hum Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai" (We are Pakistanis, Pakistan is ours).
Taking a dig at the moderate Hurriyat leaders who shared the stage with him, Gillani said the leadership issue of the Kashmiri separatist movement was "solved today".
"Do you have faith in my leadership? I will be faithful to you till my death and will carry everyone along," he said, as the crowd applauded him shouting in unison "zaroor" (certainly).
Srinagar streets on Monday danced to the tune of ‘‘jeeve jeeve Pakistan'' as frenzied youth chanted ‘‘teri jaan meri jaan, Pakistan, Pakistan'' and the Polo Ground resonated to the rhythm of ‘‘teri mandi, meri mandi, Rawalpindi, Rawalpindi''.
Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has every reason to be mighty pleased with the turn of events which marked the success of his efforts to put himself and his mentors in Islamabad back in the J&K equation just as they appeared to have been pushed to the margins.
But then came the twist. Giddy by the success of bringing secession back on the agenda, Geelani committed the indiscretion of coronating himself as the leader of the ‘azadi’ flock.
Quite a bungle it was. The boast pricked the sensitive egos of the rest in the secessionist choir and the rift became visible within no time, perhaps creating an opening for the government to try and salvage its chestnuts out of the fire. Geelani's unilateralism left the likes of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah miffed and they left the scene without submitting the memorandum to the UN Military Observer's office, for which the march was called in the first place.
The strong bid to appropriate the ‘sadarat' of separatism, which has parties of myriad hues, was said to have sent others in quick meetings to hammer out their responses. ‘‘The ****** are there to see,'' said an analyst. Geelani sensed the resentment as he addressed a press conference in the evening to dub his ‘I am the sole leader of the tehreek' claim as a ‘‘slip of tongue''. He apologised, said the movement was bigger than the leaders and the struggle would continue, reposing faith in the coordination committee of Hurriyat factions.
If the octogenarian leader sought to make amends, it had already reduced the fourth show of strength since the Amarnath issue triggered a surge in sentiments in the form of march to UN office into a game in one-upmanship. Yasin Malik had walked out of the coordination panel's meet on Sunday at Geelani's residence by reportedly expressing reservations on the pro-Pakistan agenda being pushed by others.
The Hurriyat factions have been trying to put up a united face, having led campaigns like ‘Muzaffarabad chalo', mourning at Idgah for Sheikh Abdul Aziz who died in police firing and ‘Pampore chalo' on Saturday. Now, all eyes are on how the other components of the separatist camp take Geelani's apology. The separatists have already announced that the agitation would continue, rebuffing speculation that the march to UN could end the demonstrations which have brought Srinagar to a halt for over a month. On display on Monday was the fact that the fresh surge in ‘azadi' sentiment is driven by a religious rightwing tilt for across the border.
People came in droves, representing various walks of life, to submit memorandums to the UN Military Observer's office. They included the hotel association, Bar association, chambers of commerce and different mohalla committees. All mobilized under the separatist umbrella of Hurriyat Conference and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat of Geelani. Standing out in the massive show, however, were the frenzied youth from downtown areas, Hyderpura and other hubs of recent tensions.
While they provocatively invoked ‘‘Lashkar aayi, Lashkar aayi'' on their march, they later stood up in the park to give a thumbs down to the decision to open Srinagar for three days till Friday. Analysts called them a local constituency of religious rightwing which doesn't want any drop in momentum by relaxing the ‘hartal'. But the script took a twist as the leaders arrived on the scene. Hurriyat did not submit the memorandum to the UN office.
Meanwhile, leaders like Zafar Ahmad Butt of Salvation Movement and Javed Mir of JKLF, Shia cleric Agha Sayeed Hasan of Budgam, former APHC chief Abbas Ansari had already visited the UN office.
Mirwaiz, Malik and Shah, standing before a surcharged gathering, made their speeches. Mirwaiz announced: ‘‘Either the whole gathering will go to the UN office or we will not.'' Then came Geelani who delivered a sharp Islamist address and staked claim to the leadership while taking three pledges which included ‘‘I will take everyone along.''
His bid to nudge others out of the frame, aided by his supporters who struck higher vocal chords to make it a Geelani show, turned out to be a spoiler. The octogenarian could not complete his three pledges, drowned in sloganeering by people who got up midway to disperse. In an hour, Srinagar streets bore a deathly silence, as if nothing had happened.
We are Pakistanis, says Syed Geelani-India-The Times of India