One of the longest-surviving rumors in trouble-torn Kashmir that – Hurriyat leaders have been minting fortunes has finally proved true. It’s thanks to veteran hardline leader, Syed Ali Geelani, whose sudden letter of resignation from the Hurriyat Conference, came as an endorsement that running such an amalgam was no less than a money-minting machine for its leaders.
While Geelani is his 2-page resignation endorsed that Hurriyat in the past was marred by financial irregularities and other corruption, one finds enough of evidence on the ground about such rags to riches stories.
Not a single senior Hurriyat leader in Kashmir owns an ordinary house or other property. Infact they live in some of most luxurious mansions that were ever built in the last 30 odd years in the restive region.
Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah’s mansion in upscale Sanat Nagar locality of Srinagar is one of the finest architectural works with interiors resembling the bungalows mostly shown in Bollywood movies alone.
Interestingly, keeping in mind the pampering done by the successive regimes, such villas of the Hurriyat leaders were built with sentry-post for their personal security.
Well, sentry post –as if these villas don’t belong to those against the government, but the ones running it. Well the Hurriyat leaders did enjoy government security.
From Shah, whose elder daughter is studying law at one of the costliest colleges in England to Geelani’s grandson Anees Ul Islam, for whom a special princely-job in J&K government was tailor made, the children of Hurriyat leaders have been enjoying even fortunate luxuries of life.
As about Geelani’s counterpart Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads the rival faction, Hurriyat M, his villa in plush Nigeen on the skirts of Srinagar, apart from other luxuries, also has a state-of-the-art gym to keep the Hurriyat leader in the best of physique and fitness. Here one can only wonder why the young leader never shared such fitness tips with the youth of Kashmir?
So the larger question remains –what has been the source of income for these Hurriyat leaders?
Aren’t they the same leaders, who essentially want common Kashmiri and their children to stage protests on roads or “pick up gun to die for the cause” of Kashmir?
While over the years, questions had remained over their hawala funding, there were even some open money channels being run by the Hurriyat leaders to mint millions.
One such means was selling seats for professional colleges in Pakistan.
While the details of Geelani’s resignation have once again brought back focus on such seats sold by the Hurriyat leaders, the expose on this front is nothing new barring that now an endorsement has come from their tallest leader.
Well, the first such major plot on sale of such seats got exposed in February 2015 in Pakistan, where the head of the Pakistan chapter of the Hurriyat Conference (JK), Mehmood Sagar, was forced to resign. And simultaneously in Kashmir, its then chairman Shabir Ahmad Shah was asked to step down. Both these leaders, however, were given “honorable exit” as no statements were issued about their expulsion.
The media reports, however, had exposed that both these leaders were found involved in the frauds and thus resigned from the amalgam.
The expose had come as a major setback to Pakistani efforts to unite factions of separatist Hurriyat Conference, post elections of 2014 when record number of people in Kashmir had cast vote.
Despite the expose that Hurriyat leaders were involved in selling Pakistan professional college seats, the neighboring country’s reunification efforts had continued for around next two years, till an even bigger shocker surfaced.
In 2017, in the wake of a sting operation by India Today that exposed the alleged Pakistani funding to separatists in Kashmir, Geelani suspended his colleague Naeem Khan from the basic membership of Hurriyat Conference-G.
But then Geelani’s plea to suspend Khan sounded contradictory, if not necessarily idiotic.
Call it nepotism or coincidence, Geelani’s family has also been a beneficiary of the unrests in Kashmir. After the mass agitation of 2010, during which 120 civilians were killed in the Valley, Geelani’s son Naeem Geelani permanently returned from Pakistan after spending 12 years in the country.
And there’s was another bigger “coincidence”. During the peak of the 2016 uprising, exactly on the day when Geelani asked Kashmiri youth to make the Jamia Masjid Chalo protest call a success, his grandson Anees Ul Islam, son of Altaf Fantoosh (Geelani’s son- in-law and executive member of Hurriyat G) appeared for an interview for a government job, almost tailor-designed for him by then Peoples' Democratic Party-led government.
In December 2016, Anees secretly joined Sher-e-Kashmir International Convection Complex (SKICC) as a Research Officer, at an annual salary of more than Rs 12 lakh and other incentives.
For all the four years, however, Geelani remained silent on his grandson being a beneficiary of backchannel diplomacies.
And now, his resignation has exposed the dirty underbelly of the separatist politics in Kashmir.
Hurriyat leadership has been a typical story of rags to riches, but here the rags became riches at the cost of common Kashmiri.