The Jama’at-Geelani Property Row: Confusion or Confrontation? – (II)

BY MUDASIR WANI

Two points become clear from the foregoing discussion: that there is a strong connection between Geelani Sahib and the Jama’at in the sense of he having being one of its most prominent members and leaders, and having contested and won elections on its ticket. And, that the Jama’at owns considerable property, which is registered in the names of its various members to avoid confiscation by the state. If one believes the JI version, then Geelani Sahib is wrong to have decided about the property in question as his own. And if Geelani Sahib is right, the Jama’at is not morally justified in making its claim.

Other possibilities exist in between: that the Jama’at had provided Geelani Sahib some land and construction in the past, to which he added value by way of renovation and further construction on his own. This would raise the question of what belongs to the Jama’at and what to the leader. Or, that on leaving the Jama’at over the issue of launching his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (and the controversy whether he could remain a part of the JI as well), Geelani Sahib deemed the property under him to be his share for the new party. The leader could have a valid argument in both cases.

One could also presume that over a period of time, Geelani Sahib forgot that the property belonged to the Jama’at, and decided to donate it because of this misapprehension. But this cannot hold true of the Jama’at with its elaborate structure and theshura that serves to correct such misunderstandings on the part of an individual member. The chances of an inadvertent error having been committed are therefore greater in the case of Geelani Sahib than in the case of the Jama’at which deliberated over the issue for a full day in its highest decision-making body.

Further, Geelani Sahib’s decision could have been the result of the following considerations: knowing that the property belonged to the JI, the leader reasoned that since the Jama’at served Kashmir in a capacity different from his, and had a dependable and more-or-less secure operational and financing structure, the fate of the property under him should not be an issue at all so long it was used for the same purpose and the same ‘sacred’ cause.  Geelani Sahib’s argument, thus, could be that since the property Jama’at owns is for Kashmir, his position of being a popular leader gives him an equal right to decide how the assets registered under his name ought to be used. In other words, the property does not belong to the Jama’at also, but has been donated by the public for the Kashmir cause, and belongs to whoever is fighting for that cause. Hence thewasiyyat, and its rectitude.

Alternatively, Geelani Sahib may have acted out of a feeling that the Jama’at could not be trusted to devote its property to the Kashmir cause, and therefore he was more competent to use it for a purpose that deserved priority over other considerations. His premise here would be that the Jama’at was trying to remain aloof from, and in some way betraying, the Kashmir movement, and therefore he was justified in divesting the party of its right to decide how to employ its assets.

So, if Geelani Sahib has acted despite being conscious that the property belongs to the Jama’at-e-Islami, the position that he is justified in diverting it for the Kashmir cause without due approval from the JI is untenable in view of the party’s basic ideology, purpose and operational mechanism and procedure. The Jama’at-e-Islami has a broad agenda, best described by theameer-e-jama’at: that the party “was not formed (specifically) to pursue the Kashmir issue.”

It is not an organization run by a single person, but is based on principles and procedures; it has a constitution and a hierarchy, and policies to pursue and objectives to achieve.  It cannot be led by the benign intentions of a single individual, unless they are approved by due process. The appropriation of the Jama’at’s property for a single strand of its overall, multi-dimensional outlook could be deemed as morally infirm.

There is no denying that Syed Ali Shah Geelani is one of the two most formidable leaders Kashmir has had in the 20th century – Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah being the other. Sheikh Sahib passed away, and left a legacy behind. Geelani Sahib is still alive, and it would be premature to speculate on his legacy, for there is no predicting how events will unfold in his lifetime.  Both emerged from organizational structures, and later outgrew them. Sheikh Sahib emerged from the Muslim Conference and Geelani Sahib from the Jama’at-e-Islami. Leaders are made not only by personal charisma but by the organisations that support and shape them.   As a worker and member of the JI, Geelani Sahib was trained in a particular ideological framework which gave him an identity. This identity is also a result of the comradeship stemming out of shared ideals and objectives. Geelani Sahib is seen as an old comrade in the JI office, and as an active comrade fighting for the Kashmir cause by its other cadres.

Some quarters are of the opinion that the Jama’at-e-Islami should not have gone public with its claim on the property in question and created a controversy, but taken it up privately with Geelani Sahib, and resolved the issue amicably. Coming out into the open on such matters, they say, sparks public dissonance which, according to them, state agencies could use to create rifts among the masses.     JI should not have come publicly to claim its property, and create a controversy out of it. It should have taken up the issue at personal level with Geelani sahib and resolved it amicably. Because it creates dissonance among the people and state agencies read intelligence agencies might use it to create a rift among the people.

But who brought the issue into the public in the first place? Geelani Sahib or the Jama’at? The JI’s silence at this moment would have proved suicidal. It could have set the wrong precedent. People could start grabbing Jama’at property, and throw the party into a two-pronged crisis.  One, the JI would be deprived of its image of having morally upright and honest individuals as its members. And two, some greedy, self-seeking elements would get the excuse to malign and exploit it, and eventually people would come to doubt the Jama’at’s credentials as an organisation.

 

It is widely believed that the JI has an unwritten understanding with Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) with regard to mutual support. It is the JI which provides the TeH the logistical and infrastructural base to operate across Kashmir. Some would even say that Geelani Sahib’s house too belongs to the Jama’at. People at the grassroots level rarely distinguish between TeH and JI members. Like Geelani Sahib himself, a majority of TeH members are old ‘comrades’ from the JI and subscribe to Islamist ideology.

The issue, therefore, should not be seen as one of property only, but as a symptom of a larger problem: that of disowning and discrediting. Kashmir is a story of structural oppression, but within this larger frame, there are focal points where this oppression has been the worst. And these have mostly been Islamists, both for their ideology and identity. Geelani Sahib’s reluctance to acknowledge the true ownership of the property could indicate his bid to dissociate himself from his links with the JI. He is a charismatic leader, and even his symbolic gestures assume great significance. Was there a need to constitute a new trust – a milli trust – and transfer the property to it, when it already belonged to a public organisation?

Geelani Sahib seems to have acted in a manner typically Kashmiri – forgetting one’s roots.  The JI has taken the right decision to convey that the bedrock of the TeH, and indeed of Geelani Sahib’s stature itself, is the Jama’at’s Islamist underpinnings and infrastructure.

He should not forget his debt to his parent organisation. He should openly acknowledge the Jama’at’s role in the resistance movement.

Geelani Sahib cannot relegate the Jama’at to the background by glorifying his own sacrifices and ignoring those of the Jama’at.

-concluded

-the writer holds a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from the CPS, JNU, where he is currently a research scholar

-email: mudasir.cpsjnu@gmail.com