The removal of the prominent Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Mr Syed Ali Shah Geelani, from the executive of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, signals a significant shift in the politics of the umbrella separatist alliance. Mr Geelani is a well-known hard-liner who has continued to publicly justify militancy and the use of violence against Indian security forces. The separatist leader is known also to openly champion the cause of Jammu and Kashmirís accession to Pakistan. It may be recalled that Mr Geelani was imprisoned in Ranchi for several months, under the Public Safety Act, before being released a few months ago on health grounds. The ostensible reason for the removal of Mr Geelani from the APHC executive is his poor health. But it is well known that the Amir of the Jamaat, Mr G.M. Bhat, has strongly disapproved of Mr Geelaniís extremist views for some years. In the past too, Mr Bhat had attempted to contain Mr Geelani, but not very successfully. Mr Geelaniís proximity to the Pakistani establishment and particularly the Inter- Services Intelligence, it is believed, had given him tremendous influence within the Hurriyat.
This time round, however, Mr Bhat acted decisively and replaced Mr Geelani with a nominee of his choice. This may well also be because a powerful section of Pakistanís establishment too has become uncomfortable with Mr Geelaniís politics. Indeed, Mr Geelani recently criticized Pakistanís decision to clamp down on the militant group, Hizub-ul Mujahideen. As it is, Mr Geelani had not been attending meetings of the APHC executive since his release from jail. He claimed that the APHC must take action against one of its constituent groups, the Peopleís Conference, which, according to him, had put up dummy candidates during the last assembly elections. Mr Geelaniís departure may not resolve all the internal conflicts and contradictions within the APHC, but should make the organization more pragmatic and more in tune with ground realities. Mr Geelani will, of course, attempt to position himself on the high moral ground and as the only real spokesman of the Kashmiri people. The fact, however, is that the separatist leaderís past record smacks of expediency and opportunism rather than steadfast adherence to any principle. Not only has he been a member of the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly twice, but, on the basis of this membership, continues to draw a pension from the state government. More recently, he is believed to have sought concession for air and rail travel on the ground of being a senior Indian citizen. This itself speaks volumes of the politics of secession in Jammu and Kashmir today.