In Delhi I want to create awareness among common people regarding Kashmir: Geelani

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Syed Ali Shah Geelani is known for his unflinching resolve. For years, people followed him for this fact. In the recent past, Geelani locked horns with the local Shariah court and condemned the banishing of four pastors from the valley. In Delhi, acknowledging his support to the minority Christian community, he ensures that no harm should be caused to the community. Before this interview, he was in conversation with the Christian Priest Father Samuels.
SAS Geelani (to the priest): As long as we’re there, there’ll be no harm to our brothers of the Christian faith by our community. But we are ourselves not safe under the Indian occupation, so how can we guarantee safety to others. But you can come to Kashmir any time, you’re most welcome.
Priest: A word from you is really a great support for us.
SAS Geelani: We’ll support you, not only to please you, but it’s our duty too. I’ve a gift for you – The Holy Quran.
Kashmir Currents editor Samreen Mushtaq talks to Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Gilani about his diplomatic mission at his Maliviya Nagar residence, Delhi.
SM: When you left for Delhi in December, you said you’d try to meet the diplomats of several countries and also reach out to the Indian people. What has been the progress of this political visit?
SAS Geelani: Efforts are going on. I first met people at Pakistan Embassy, the Ambassador of Pakistan and the Director of Kashmir Affairs. I made them aware of the current situation in J&K. Next I met a BJP leader, Dr. Jain. He’d come to Kashmir in 2008 with a deputation, that’s how we got acquainted. When I came here, I heard he was ill. So, I went to see him. I also met Ram Jethmalani, who’s the Chairman of Kashmir Committee, though the government hasn’t recognized it.
SM: Why did you meet Ram Jethmalani even when BJP has always been repulsive of Kashmiri separatist leadership, especially you?
SAS Geelani: Ram Jethmalani had invited me to a private function. It had nothing to do with the government or BJP. It was a gathering of 30-40 people, who were all retired officials and bureaucrats. There I spoke like I do in Srinagar, stressing that Kashmir is a disputed territory and we’ll continue our struggle till we get our Right to Self-Determination.
Our policy is that we won’t meet any officials or representatives appointed by the government directly because it serves no purpose as long as India continues to call Kashmir its ‘integral part’ and refuses to accept our five points. That’s why we even refuse to meet the interlocutors.

SM: Being well aware of India’s age old insincere stand on Kashmir dispute, do you think such a mission of yours will prepare ground for a meaningful dialogue?
SAS Geelani: No, this kind of activity has only one goal – to create awareness among common people regarding Kashmir. Like when I went to see Dr. Jain at his house, I narrated to his family the sorrowful tales of Kashmir and the kind of torture we go through. They couldn’t stop their tears. This is how the common people get to know the reality; otherwise the Indian media always distorts the facts or doesn’t mention Kashmir at all. Even the mainstream leaders from Kashmir who come here spend their time enjoying and drinking rather than informing people about the reality of Kashmir. Because all they care about is to stay in power. So the responsibility of creating awareness comes to people who’re true to Kashmir cause and want it to be solved as per the wishes and aspirations of its’people.
SM: What’s your take on the work of interlocutors?
SAS Geelani: No doubt, the appointment and work of interlocutors was much hyped. But look at their weakness; they haven’t even made the report public yet. They are only concerned about making the Government of India happy by making recommendations that suit them. They haven’t addressed the real issues.
SM: Muslim League Jammu Kashmir detached itself from your political activities in Delhi. What do you have to say about it?
SAS Geelani: Muslim League is a part of our forum. We’ve made it a policy that whenever we get a chance to put across our point in a gathering of common people which isn’t sponsored by the government and where government agencies are not present, we should talk there. We’ve just gone ahead as per our policy, there have been no deviations.
SM: Few days ago, Pakistan’s Kashmir Affairs Minister Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo was quoted as saying, “We’ve no issues if Kashmir wants to stay with India”. How would you comment on that?
SAS Geelani: Well, it’s his personal view. It’s not the policy of the Government of Pakistan. When Pakistan observed the Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, they made it clear without any ambiguity that they’ll support the Kashmiris’ demand for Right to Self-Determination morally, diplomatically and politically.
SM: But don’t you think Pakistan is not as enthusiastic about Kashmir now as it used to be?
SAS Geelani: The solution to Kashmir issue holds as much significance for Pakistan as it has for us. But they’re held back by their own limitations – they’re under America’s pressure and the unconditional surrender agreed upon by Musharraf after 9/11 has been responsible for all the damages and difficulties Pakistan is facing. It is because of his wrong decisions that the whole nation of Pakistan is suffering!
But the most important thing for us is to have faith in Almighty and also, our people should show unity for the cause and support for resistance. Allah will help us then.

SM: In 2010, every killing was followed by a shutdown call by Hurriyat (G), then why didn’t it happen in case of the Sopore teenager killed by Army a few days ago?
SAS Geelani: Because there had already been a shutdown on February 7th following our call and on February 11th because of Maqbool (Butt) Sahab. So we couldn’t extend it to another day. We’ve to think of people’s convenience too.
SM: But in 2010, there used to be hartals for days together. Didn’t the same thing apply then?
SAS Geelani: In 2010, there was a completely different situation. There were killings every day. Even the funeral processions of martyrs were fired at. So, it was different altogether.
SM: Will you ever engage in any dialogue with India without Pakistan’s participation?
SAS Geelani: We’ve made our stand clear enough – we aren’t going to engage in any dialogue with India unless it accepts our five points. We aren’t against dialogue, dialogue is a process of solving issues; violence only creates more problems. But a dialogue can be successful only when the right issues are addressed and realities accepted. And the reality is that J&K is a disputed territory. It’s neither a part of Indian or Pakistan till the same is decided by the people of J&K.
SM: Is there any chance of unification of Hurriyat factions?
SAS Geelani: Not really! We continued to work under the same forum for 10 years despite facing many hardships and tolerating much criticism. But then we had some ideological differences. When there were some deviations from the constitution, we realised that in order to safeguard it and prevent the sacrifices from going waste, we would have to follow our constitution in letter and spirit. That’s why we turned separate ways.

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