Views from Srinagar
Z. G. Muhammad
TWO famous quotes started ringing in my mind morning when I started writing today’s column. One by Les Brown, an American author and another by Charles de Gaulle, a French statesman.
I see, the two quotes relevant for joining the ongoing debate in the media and the resistance organization about the failing health of Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Les Brown’s quote reads, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step.” Charles de Gaulle has said, “The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”
Those, afraid of taking the first step, even if they might have had dreams as great as those of Martin Luther King after their death leave behind no legacy- good or bad. Histories, of the nations, allow them no space even in the footnotes. In fact, they rest in their graves without an epitaph. Those, who in their lifetime are indispensable to their nations leave behind very strong legacies and yardsticks. For generations to come people judge their successors against the yardsticks set by them. In the subcontinent, even seventy years after the death of Gandhi and Jinnah people in these two countries judge their leaders against the yardsticks set up by them.
In the nations engaged in the resistance movements the leaders that during their lifetime are seen indispensable by their people for their struggle also leave behind certain yardsticks for the generations to come as set by Omar Ben Mokhtar bin Omar an Arab Muslim resistance leader during his nineteen years struggle against Italian forces in Libya. His words like ‘we do not surrender — we win or die,’ ‘I will not leave this place until I achieve one of the two highest levels; “martyr-hood” or victory’, have become yardstick across the globe for leaders in the vanguard of the resistance movements, struggles for rights, social justice and against the apartheid. It was for the yardsticks he had established that even his ‘last adversary, Italian General Rodolfo Graziani had to say about him, “He was unselfish and uncompromising; ultimately, he remained very religious and poor, even though he had been one of the most important Libyan figures.” Of the freedom struggles and the resistance movements,’ only those leaders live in the memory of their nations as role models who live to up to the yardstick as established by the great Libyan leader.
For the past couple of months, after octogenarian Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was taken seriously ill. Journalists, columnists, and political analysts both in New Delhi and the state have been debating and discussing his successor. Some writers even have been analysing the political situation that is likely to emerge in the state after him. The question often posed has been will there be a paradigm shift in the resistance movement of Kashmir- and what direction it will take after him.
Such debates had become favourite subjects for newspapers and political analysts first in 2002 when Geelani had been diagnosed with cancer in one of his kidneys and the second time in 2007 when he was again diagnosed with cancer in his second kidney. And his doctors had advised him for going to the USA for treatment. The then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had taken a personal interest in seeing an international passport issued to him. Nonetheless, the USA government had denied him a visa for his statement against the policy of President Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were the times when media was galore with reports about an agreement on the lines of four-point formula on Kashmir between India and Pakistan having reached to a final stage. Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khurshid Kasuri had even announced that the agreement on Kashmir was ready just to be signed. Some leaders averse to Geelani’s stand on the four-point formula had seen a silver lining in his illness for an agreement between India-Pakistan. He survived deadly cancer and two months later he returned to Srinagar to a tumultuous reception and addressed for forty minutes at the Martyrs Graveyard, Iddgah. One day after, on 23 April 2007, I interviewed him for an international magazine. Ostensibly weak but he seemed all determined to take his battle to the logical end and told me that he will fight for the cause of right to determination till last breath. “I will not betray the cause of my subjugated nation. I will not tell them anything which is not an article of faith with me- my faith is that “India’s illegal occupation” will certainly end.’ In response to my question, ‘if the two countries sign an agreement on the basis of four point formula’, his response was that ‘it is people who have to decide future of their land, not India and Pakistan. If an agreement is signed, in which right to self-determination is betrayed I will rise against it’. It can be said that Geelani like resistance leaders of Omar Mukhtar’ standing has also set certain yardsticks not only for his successor but also for his cadre in the resistance movement. Nine years after surviving cancer in his second kidney, the situation is different; age is against the octogenarian leader, so the debate over his handing over the baton to his successor has gained more seriousness within the ‘Hurriyat’ organizations than it was during his earlier illnesses. And it should not point of debate whether he should hand over his baton or not in his lifetime and like Sheikh Yaseen of Palestine assume the role of spiritual leader for the Hurriyat. But the question should be whom should he handed over the mantle. Does he fit in the yardsticks established by him?
—Courtesy: GK. [Writer is veteran journalist/writer based in Srinagar]