by Zafar Choudhary
‘Chhuti Baba’, as Children in the Valley call the separatist veteran Syed Ali Shah Geelani for bringing them prolonged offs from schools with his shutdown calendars, must have made the ‘Rath Yatri’ LK Advani to think hard as what makes one powerful and popular. Indian Express newspaper’s annual power list for 2011 –a ranking of 100 most powerful persons in India –has put Geelani far ahead of Advani.
In the Indian Express power list, which comes in first month of the New Year, has always been very interesting and unusual in the terms of its approach to pick up leaders who are expected to influential in their spheres in the present year. Though the strings are picked up from their performances and attitudes in the previous year but that is always a basis to understand what they are expected to do next. Explaining how 100 faces were spotted in a country of 1.2 billion, the introduction to the power list says: “…the jury’s decisions were based on candidate’s ability to command influence; and power can be negative –the power to disrupt, to block –and we have tried to capture that too”.
As it always happens in case of troubled Jammu and Kashmir, the cyclic turmoil in the Valley seems to have worked with the jury as only factor to look at this state. Therefore, Geelani’s and Omar’s presence in the list is mostly a reflection upon what they did last year and what they are expected to do this year. A reading of the brief summaries would reveal that Geelani is in the list not only for the negative influence as his power to influence has been seen in positive terms as well. In the power punch deck of the catalogue of influential persons, the Jury writes about Geelani: “it was only when he called for peaceful protests that the Valley agitation stopped being violent”. It is Geelani’s last major action of 2010 which has brought him in reckoning for 2011.
As people hang new calendars on walls, Geelani and Omar are again under the public spotlight not only in Kashmir or India but also in many parts of world. Will Kashmir be peaceful coming summer? This is the question everyone asks twice. So, what next? “Will he greenlight another round of protests? That is the big, scary question in Kashmir, which is quiet now”. Pinning a lot of peace expectations in Geelani, the Jury writes: “the state government released him from jail (towards end of 2010 summer unrest) to try and pacify protesters. He will be the key figure this year in Kashmir”.
If Geelani is credited for keeping the Valley youths on toes last summer, Omar too did not do less in restoring order which though took quite a long time. Though Geelani has taken place among the top most powerful persons in the country and Omar is towards at the tail end of the list of 100 but there is a consolation for the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister. He had ranked 57 in a similar list this month last year and the achievement is in terms of staging a comeback this year. As 30 powerful persons from last year’s list slipped out of ranks to make view for new powers,
If Indian Express’s list of powerful persons is any guide to go by, Omar Abdullah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani continue to be the most important persons in Jammu and Kashmir who hold key to peace in Kashmir the coming summer.