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INTERVIEW: Syed Ali Shah Geelani
‘Islam is our source of inspiration and sacrifices’ 

Syed Ali Shah Geelani
You may like him or hate him but you cannot wish him away or doubt his sincerity. Syed Ali Shah Geelani whose name on the All Party Hurriyet Conference's list for the forums’s proposed Pakistan visit has been a bone of contention, has become indispensable in Kashmir's polity that he cannot simply be ignored by the government or the militant outfits.

The former ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and ex-chairman of the APHC wields great respect among political leaders of the state as well as among separatist outfits functioning from inside the Kashmir and Pakistan. Geelani recently received a fillip from an unexpected quarter: he has been appointed a member of a leading Muslim world forum, Makkah-based Rabita al-Aalam al-Islami (Muslim World League). He is the first Kashmiri to receive this honour. Distinguished Muslims personalities like Maulana Abul Ala Maududi and Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi from the Sub-continent have been members of this world forum. S Ubaidur Rahman and Zafarul-Islam Khan of the MG talked to him on a number of issues. Excerpts:


How do you see the Indian government's latest initiative to hold talks with political groups in J&K for which KC Pant has been appointed as negotiator?
As far as the government's announcement is concerned, there have been several such announcements in the past. Last year too the government had announced to hold talks with the people and the Hurriyet Conference. The announcement was made exactly a year ago, on 4 April. This time too the government repeated its announcement on the same date. We did not receive any written or formal proposal to hold talks during the whole year.

What makes government's intention suspicious is its announcement to hold talks with all people in J&K. This announcement in itself is confusing. There is need to talk to only those people who are struggling for a just resolution of the J&K issue and not to those groups who already favor India's stand on Kashmir. This does not give right signals to those who are involved in the struggle. The government has not said that it intends to resolve. Rather, this move shows that it only wants the continuance of ‘peace.’ There is no concrete step that shows that the government wants to resolve the contentious issue.

The Government has not accepted Kashmir as a dispute. Until there is a step to resolve the dispute itself no peace is possible in Kashmir. We want peace more than anyone. It is we who are sacrificing our lives. Thousands have been martyred, a large number of youths tortured, a number of our sisters and daughters have been outraged. So who will desire peace here more than us. We want peace in the J&K but it's not possible till the purpose for which they sacrificed is achieved.

The Hurriyet Conference has made it clear that the issue cannot be resolved till the talks are held between the three parties involved in the dispute, viz. India, Pakistan and the people of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir and the issue is resolved as per the UN resolutions and charter.

But the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says that the issue cannot be solved on the basis of the UN charter but as per Shimla agreement and Lahore Declaration between the two countries?
The fact does not change on account of what someone says, be it the UN secretary general or someone else. The UN has to see which country is making impediments in the way of the resolution of the issue. It was UN's responsibility to see if India was not conforming to its directives, and if this was the case it should tell the country to abide by them and if Pakistan is taking steps opposed to its charter then Pakistan should be told to follow its directives. But everything has become highly politicized these days.

Why you have reservations on the inclusion of other groups in the talks?
Why should those people be involved in talks who have nothing to do with the Kashmir issue. The Congress and other political parties did not play any role in this struggle. People who have sacrificed their lives and everything should be contacted and dialogues should be held with them only.

Why you are insisting to include Pakistan in the dialogue?
India occupies two thirds of Kashmir territory and Pakistan one third. So the issue cannot be resolved without the inclusion of Pakistan in the dialogue. For this purpose we asked the government of India to allow us to go to Pakistan. We had even decided to go there last December but we were not issued passports.

But both the countries don't recognize the Kashmiri people as a party to the dispute?
It has been accepted by the whole world. Kashmir people have been accepted by the whole world as a party to the dispute. They have been suffering most in this dispute.

There are people who don't want to go with Pakistan?
It is the people of the Kashmir who have to decide. It has to be decided by the majority of the people. If the majority wants to stay with India none should oppose their right to stay with India. But this has to be decided by the majority. Even if Muslims of the state decide to stay with India we will abide by their wish. In any case around 200 million Muslims are staying in the country.

But Jammu and Laddakh people don't want to go to Pakistan?
It will affect the unity of Kashmir. They will be allowed to vote for staying in India and there will be no pressure on them from our part.

Will there not be bloodshed in such a condition?
We don't want bloodshed. We want to live with our Hindu and Buddhist brothers. We have never pressurized anyone. Hindu brothers who left Kashmir were never told by us to leave the state. It was the Indian government that asked them to leave Kashmir.

Have you made any concrete efforts to bring those people back?
We have asked our Hindu brothers to come back and settle there again. We had never told them to leave the state. The Indian government has to bring those people back to the state.
How are we supposed to make concrete efforts to bring back our Hindu brothers back here when we ourselves are not safe. When a person leaves the house in the morning we are not sure if he will be back alive in the evening. When a person is taken to a police station we have no idea that he will be back alive or if his body will be thrown somewhere. Our women are not safe. How are we supposed in this atmosphere to make efforts to bring back our Hindu brothers? We are struggling for our own survival.

There were news of internal differences in the APHC..
Differences are natural. Hurriyet is not an organization. It is a forum and the organizations which have joined the forum have not given up their separate ideologies. Freedom of Kashmir has brought them together.

There are differences over projecting Kashmir as a religious or political issue in the APHC and Jamaat itself. What do you say?
Be the issue religious or political, the people sacrificing for the cause are all Muslims. You will have to see what is the source of inspiration behind their cause and their sacrifices. And the source of inspiration behind all their sacrifices is Islam alone.  



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