In Conversation with Syed Ali Geelani

Aziz Lone & Hakeem Irfan

Syed Ali Geelani is a Kashmiri veteran freedom fighter and leader who is fondly called Bab (Father) by the people. He is the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) an amalgam of various separatist political parties. He supports the right to self-determination as the resolution of the Kashmir issue. The ailing leader has spent more than 11 years of his life in jail. He turned 79 on September 27. With his background of Jamaat-i-Islami, Geelani is seen as a staunch supporter of Pakistan.

While we enter the room, he is seated on a bed with an oxygen tank adjacent. Around a dozen newspapers are piled up and he is scrutinizing each of them. He looks up, smiles and shakes our hand, and invites us to sit. His room looks like a library with hundreds of books on the shelves. Here are the translated excerpts of our exceptionally long conversation with him which took place in Urdu.


How do you define the Kashmir problem?
We have to look at the problem from its historical perspective. When the partition happened in 1947 there were some 560 independent states not under the direct control of the British Empire. The alliance of these states with the two nations, India and Pakistan was based on the three conditions: Sharing of the boundaries, Ratio of the population & Cultural and religious affiliation
However the princely state of Hyderabad chose to be independent, but India objected saying that the larger part of the boundaries of the state are shared with India and thus Hyderabad became the part of India.
Another princely state Junagadh joined Pakistan but India said that the majority of the population is Hindu so, it is the natural part of India and thus Junagadh became the part of India with India’s police intervention.
In this pretext, Jammu and Kashmir were ought to become the natural part of Pakistan with a 760-mile long border the state shares with Pakistan and in 1947 Jammu and Kashmir had an 85%muslim majority.
But India refuted from this historical perspective and there were four reasons for ours slavery and occupation:

  1. Indian National Congress and British hatched a conspiracy under Red Cliff Award and Gurdaspur was given to India.
  2. Dogra ruler of Kashmir had sympathy with India and he acceded to it, but the Accession was Temporary, Provisional, and Conditional. It was decided that the people will be given the chance to decide their future.
  3. Leadership in Kashmir was secular at the time of partition and they were just singing Quranic verses rather than following it. This resulted in a historical blunder.
  4. The government of Pakistan in 1947 had no courage and activeness to get their right by blocking the Jammu route through which India made an entry to the state.

Although Late Moulana Moudoodi (RA) who was the last man to migrate from Pathankot to Pakistan met Chief Minister of Punjab Nawab Mamdoot on August 29, 1947, and told him that this is the golden chance and you should send some retired army officers to block the Jammu road so that India cannot enter the state. He also met Choudhary Muhammad Ali on August 30 but there was no response from both regarding the issue and thus nothing happened in this regard.
This resulted in the massacre of more than five hundred thousand Muslims in Jammu in November 1947 by the right-wing Hindu extremists of present-day RSS, Shiv Sena, Jansangh, and other parties, besides one million Muslims migrated to Pakistan that day.
Although, then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru had committed and pledged in presence of Late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah that the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be given their right and India will withdraw whenever people will want to.
India accepted at the international level that Kashmir is a disputed territory through the resolutions passed in United Nations and signed by both Indian and Pakistan. India itself took the case to the Security Council of the United Nations. It was decided in 18 resolutions passed that the right to self-determination should be given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir
Even Jawaharlal Nehru on August 7, 1952, announced in the Indian Parliament, We have given a pledge to the people of Kashmir and not only to them but to the Pakistan and world community and we will fulfill our commitment to give them the right to self-determination. If they will part from India, we will feel sad but we cannot stop them, I am neither in favor of forced unity nor in favor of forced marriages.

What is your stand on the issue?
My stand is very clear from the beginning; you will find the only person standing like a rock with his stand. What I was saying fifty years back, I am repeating the same at this juncture, that there is no solution to the Kashmir issue other than Right to Self Determination (RSD). This is the democratic, practicable, and peaceful solution through which the unity of the region will be maintained. We don’t want the J&K should be divided because if we divide the state, it will have severe implications. Muslims in Jammu region will always feel threatened and will be under the siege of the Indian army and would be intimidated by the right-wing sectarian forces, time and again. We have seen such examples in the recent past.

Brief us about the Idea of RSD?
It means the decision of the majority will prevail. We are demanding RSD for the population of 13 million Kashmiris which include Muslims, Dogras, Pandits, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, and other communities of the state. If the majority votes for India, we will have no option but to be a part of India. But if the majority votes for Pakistan, India and the international community will have to accept that as well.

Is Freedom any option for the people?
According to UN resolutions, there are only two options India and Pakistan and we do not favor the inclusion of Freedom as the third option in the resolution. However, we have given another option, if all the three concerned parties i.e. Pakistan, India, and Pro-Freedom leadership of Kashmir come to a consensus that Kashmir should become Independent as it existed on August 14th, 1947, we would accept this solution also. But India has to accept the disputed nature of the state, repeal the disturbed area act, withdraw all draconian laws including Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) Public Safety Act (PSA), Demilitarize the region, and release all the political detainees. Then the tripartite dialogue can take place, otherwise, we have 62 years of experience. Since March 23, 1952, 130 times the dialogue process has taken place where the dialogue has not yielded anything.

In RSD, if the decision of the Muslim Majority prevails, what would be the status of minorities?
There is no solution, where there will be no minority problems. In free India there are so many minorities; minorities have to be with the majority. But we have to see what would be the attitude of the majority. In India, we have 62 years of experience that the majority in India is not broad-minded. They are not tolerant of minorities. If we take the example of the Muslim Minority in India, they have suffered a lot.
But as far Muslim majority is concerned, it is guided by the Almighty Allah. Quran says whenever any non-Muslim group is under your shelter; you are not allowed to force your religion and culture on them. Quranic verse, La Iqra fi deen that means there is no compulsion as far as religion is concerned. But other majorities you see are not so broad-minded, so the difficulties come to the surface wherever the majority community does not have any moral values, human values, and love on a humanitarian basis. Islam says you are not allowed to impose your religion and that all human beings are brothers and sisters because they are the sons and daughters of one father i.e. Adam (AS). Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says, No Arab has any superiority over the non-Arab and no white has any superiority over Black as all are the sons of Adam (AS) and Adam has been created from the soil by Allah. In another instance Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, all the creatures of Universe are the members of the family of Almighty and the best among you is he who behaves well with the family of Almighty. Thus, when Muslims will have control and power, it becomes obligatory for them to abide by all the rules and principles of Islam. Under such a system Non-Muslims have the guarantee of life, religion, property, religious places, dignity, and honor.
In the Islamic system alcohol is prohibited but if in an Islamic state, a non-Muslim would prepare and drink alcohol at his house, nobody can stop him. Even if some Muslim breaks his or her bottle of alcohol, the state would have to compensate for the same.

We are now aware of the resistance movement but what led to the recent massive peaceful protests?
Our new generation has realized that we are not safe under the occupational forces of India. A sense prevailed among the youth when 40 acres of land were illegally transferred to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) by the state. We started the protests in June 2008, organized seminars, and held meetings in this regard. Finally, it all started on June 23 when we took out a rally that was attacked by the forces. Scores of youngsters were injured and one of them succumbed to death.
We raised a slogan Jabri Naata Tood Do, Jammu Kashmir Chod Do, which means End the forced relation, leave Jammu and Kashmir.
On June 24 University students also protested against the illegal transfer of the land.
After this, by the grace of Almighty hundreds of thousands of people came out on the streets to protest.

How successful has the struggle been till now?
It is a big success. We as a nation have realized that we are oppressed and need to be free from the forced occupation and slavery of the Indian state. Sir Muhammad Iqbal has said, When a mass conscience of being slave and need of freedom prevails among the people, Angels celebrate that moment as Eid. We should pray for the longevity of such an awakening.

Why are you against talks?
Dialogue is no solution at this point in time because that would mean negotiations that imply give and take. Talks on the Kashmir issue started on March 23, 1952, and since then 130 dialogues and conferences have taken place. But no one can claim that a single step towards the resolution of the Kashmir issue was tread. You can ask our leaders who started the dialogue process in 2002 what they have achieved? You must be aware of the recent statement of Prime Minister of India Shri Manmohan Singh; he said that moderate Hurriyat failed to come up with the specific proposals which means he has again thrown the ball in their court. General Parvez Musharaf also started the dialogue process in January 2004 but nothing came to fruition. With the experience of 62 years of dialogue, talks at this crucial juncture of history seem to be an immature decision.
We have to be strict in our approach. We have seen that India is not taking notice of the issue even when millions of people came out on the streets demanding RSD. Dialogue with such an arrogant power at this juncture is absolutely mockery.

Have you devised any strategy to sustain this ongoing peaceful movement?
People should not get tired and show consistency in their present stand. In between elections, economic packages, railway lines, dams, the development will come but masses will have to be aware and continue their alienation with the occupational forces. We have to go for the innovative protests every day. We are working to educate people, create awareness about the resistance and boost their resistance character morally. This will be the strategy that will compel India to take forward steps. India cannot blame these days that gun is involved in the movement neither can they allege Pakistan for any so-called foul play as Pakistan is too much busy in its internal affairs.

Have you strategized the everyday form of resistance?
Yes, we are working on that. We decided to appeal masses to form a human chain on October 27 from Qazigund to Baramullah as a mark of protest against the day the Indian army landed in Kashmir. Besides we will be discussing its future course as well.

Is Coordination Committee planning any anti-election rallies?
Definitely, we have to do it.

How do you react to Pakistan President Zardari’s recent statement regarding Kashmir?
I have already condemned that. The government of Pakistan is under the influence of America and they take dictations from the west these days. They don’t respect the historical and ideological background of their country. Therefore we should not expect any different stand from them. They speak the language of America. It is no strange to me.

Apart from politics have you ever considered giving lectures at various educational institutes and varsities?
I am not even allowed to offer prayers in Masjid, so how do you expect that I would be allowed to visit various educational institutions and varsities.

Books you recommend for the youth?
After Quran the ultimate guide, youngsters should read Towards understanding Islam, Islam aur Jahiliyat, Salaamati Ka Raasta, Banav aur Bigaad.

Have you ever considered sending your scholarly works to international Universities?
I have sent my latest work, Rooh-i-Din Ka Shinasa Iqbal to Iqbal Institute Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well. I am also looking for translators who can translate my Urdu work into English. But nobody here is willing to do so, maybe because of my political belief.

From the perspective of the Kashmir issue, how do you see your personal struggles?
(With tears and a heavy deep sigh) I was first arrested on August 28, 1962. During my detention in Srinagar Central Jail, my father passed away on November 14, 1962. I was not allowed to attend his funeral by the authorities. My father loved me a lot; he would sit by the window and wait for my arrival from the office.
I could not attend the Nikkah ceremony of my two daughters as I was detained by the Indian State at that time as well. My daughter, who was doing her MA English, died. A very intelligent girl. She wanted to do her Ph.D., but Almighty had other plans. None of my family members has a passport. My daughter in Jeddah lost her child but we couldn’t go. Her mother wept for days, but I could do nothing. The martyrdom of my intelligent friend and advisor, Advocate Hussam Din created a void in my life. My son Dr. Naeem and his wife are not allowed to move out of Pakistan. They had various offers from Saudi Arabia, but because of the restriction were not allowed to go. But I have always seen the struggle for Almighty and my people as the priority.

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