The grand old man of defiance retires but what’s next?

Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s contribution to the resistance movement can be defined by one word: defiance. He defied odds, when Jamaat-e-Islami activists and leaders were subjected to a witch-hunt by the Indian state. He defied odds, when Pervez Musharraf’s four point formula was making in-roads to a possible solution to the Kashmir dispute.

His defiance in the face of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s pragmatism, actually made the proposal more proactive. If it ever were successful, its credit would have gone to Geelani as well. But in its failure too, his defiance became a support system for Hurriyat to fall back to. Hurriyat might have lost due to its flexibility, but Geelani’s defiance gave it even more credence.

Although the factionalism has not helped Hurriyat since its inception in 1993. But it has offered a checks and balances mechanism, to keep the dealings with the state transparent and open. But the bickering and muckraking has put it in dangerous situations at times.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani a graduate from the illustrious college in Lahore, was never able to go to Pakistan after it was founded. From his tutelage under Maulana Syed Masoodi, to his camaraderie with Qazi Hussain in Pakistan, to effectively becoming the tallest leader of Kashmir’s modern movement. Geelani has been a witness of Kashmir’s history.

To his failure to capitalise on the mass-uprisings in the late noughties and in the summer of 2016. In the wake of brutalisation campaign by the Indian state and it’s local subcontractors has kept Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other Hurriyat leaders virtually under siege. But again, Geelani’s response has been defiance.

Although his retirement came late, in the face of the illness that old age brings. But there’s a question that Hurriyat must answer.

The Joint Resistance Leadership has kept the political movement afloat, and put it on an auto-pilot. It has shown that ideologies of different parties can work if there’s a principled focus on the issues beforehand. But can Hurriyat move forward, towards a united front based on the same principles that it was created for?

Unity must be institutionalised now more so than ever and that must include the political succession of youth activists into the political forum with an active international diplomatic front.

If there’s another word that stands for Syed Ali Shah Geelani apart from defiance is unity. And it must be institutionalised now, before the leadership is effectively taken over by Kashmir’s youth.