Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the face of Kashmir's separatist politics for over three decades, has quit the Hurriyat Conference, the biggest separatist amalgam in Kashmir. The 90-year-old, who had led the separatist movement in Kashmir Valley since the 1990s, was a lifelong chairman of the Hurriyat.
He has mostly been in house arrest since 2010, when anger and violence over police firing on protesters consumed Kashmir.
In an audio message, Syed Ali Shah Geelani said he was announcing his resignation from the All Party Hurriyat Conference because of "the current circumstances" in the umbrella group.
"In view of the current state of the Hurriyat Conference, I am announcing my complete dissociation from the forum. In this context I have already sent a detailed letter to all constituents of the forum," said Geelani in an audio message released this morning.
This marks a major development for separatist politics in Jammu and Kashmir after the government ended its special status under the constitution's Article 370 in August last, split it into two union territories and enforced massive restrictions in movement besides jailing scores of leaders.
Geelani also released a two-page letter in which he accused constituents of Hurriyat of inaction after the scrapping of Article 370.
"I sent messages to you through various means so the next course of action could be decided but all my efforts were in vain. Now that the sword of accountability is hanging over your heads for the financial and other irregularities, you thought of calling the advisory committee meeting," he wrote.
The letter accused Hurriyat constituents of hatching "conspiracy and resorting to lies against him" and also teaming up with the Hurriyat chapter in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which had targeted him. "Instead of reprimanding them, you called a meeting in Srinagar and ratified their stand. You people have become part of the conspiracy and lies," said the letter.
"The lack of discipline and other shortcomings were ignored and you did not allow a robust accountability system to be established over the years but today, you have crossed all limits and indulged in rebellion against the leadership."
Sources say Geelani had been attacked by groups in Pakistan for what they called his failure to respond to the government's big move. Many questioned the silence of the separatist hardliner, who was prone to calls for protest shutdowns and election boycotts.
A three-time MLA from Sopore, Geelani quit electoral politics after militancy erupted in Kashmir. Recent reports have claimed that he has been unwell.