INTERVIEW: Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Geelani: "Every land is our land"
Milli Gazette Online
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of the hardline faction of All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has emerged as the main political spokesman of militancy in Jammu & Kashmir. Here we continue our interview with him, part of which was published in the previous issue. The interview was conducted by MG editor,
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan during Geelani’s New Delhi visit for medical treatment.
The armed militancy which started in July 1988 is now completing about 17 years. So many people have been killed. So many children orphaned and so many women widowed. A lot of hardship and injustice has taken place. Now that Pakistan seems to withdraw its patronage, how long will this continue, how long will the people continue to die and suffer?
This is not the question of people dying. Any people will have to offer sacrifices if they are fighting for a cause, against the curse of slavery. Our struggle is not based on militancy. No doubt, militancy is a factor in our struggle. The real task is to move ahead together with all the people in a peaceful struggle. We have said in the constitution of APHC and the new party, Tahrik-e Hurriyat-e Jammu wa Kashmir (Movement for the freedom of Jammu & Kashmir) which has been established, that this struggle will be peaceful. We will move ahead together with the people and we will continue our struggle until self-determination is achieved. Pakistan supports us since 1947 and it still does. For this it has even gone to war. Therefore, one should not doubt that Pakistan may deviate from its national policy. It will have to honour its national policy because the Pakistani people will not support their government to make a deal over the Kashmir issue. Militancy will remain only a factor even if it is weakened due to Indian coercion and injustice. We will march together with the people and continue our struggle until self-determination is achieved.
You say that your constitution says that your struggle will be peaceful, then why you seek the support of militancy and why you support it?
We support it because the cause for which they are laying down their lives and offering sacrifices, is not terrorism. They know that India had blocked the democratic avenues. Shaikh Abdullah spent 11 years in jails. Even he wanted to solve the issue democratically. Thereafter, we took part in elections. We reached the legislative assembly. Even during the election campaign we cried hoarse that here is an issue, solve it politically. I will remind you that at the beginning of the militancy, the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah called for a meeting on 19 August 1988. I too took part in that meeting as the leader of the Muslim United Front. Even then I said that this is a political issue, do not try to suppress it by force, try to find a political solution for it.
I wrote a letter in March 1990 to the then prime minister VP Singh, which is published. I told him in that letter: do not use the army indiscriminately to suppress this voice by force. I told him that this is a political issue, solve it peacefully, taking into consideration the historical perspective. India is not ready to solve the issue through dialogue and this is why militancy erupted in J&K. It was a compulsion. It is not a hobby of the people there to tread the route of militancy. They have chosen the way of sacrifices for a just and noble cause. On the basis of this cause, we say that this [militancy] is justified to an extent. It is a valid cause and their sacrifices cannot be ignored. Yet this is not our fundamental factor. The basic factor is that our people yearn for self-determination and we march ahead on the basis of this feeling. As long as Allah’s help is with us, people will support us and we will continue our struggle.
Now that so much destruction has taken place, thousands have been martyred and orphaned, there remain only two ways for us: either we say to India, you are very strong, your country is very big, your army is huge, your resources are so varied, we had tried to make you accept our point of view but we could not face your force, therefore we are surrendering before you and offer legitimacy to your military control. The other way is for us to continue this struggle with the belief that our cause is valid and our people sacrificed for a valid cause. We don't have to ignore their sacrifices or forget them. We have to continue our struggle with perseverance and leave the result to Allah whose power is beyond the comprehension of human beings. When He wants to help us, the poor and wronged, no power on earth can stop it. With this trust, we are determined to carry on our struggle. We have chosen this second way with all consciousness since there is no other way.
Injustice of the forces too is because of the militancy. If militancy stops and you continue your struggle politically, this kind of injustice will stop too.
Look at the background of the militancy. The background is that these people are not ready to solve this issue. Otherwise the peaceful struggle was going on. Shaikh Abdullah spent 11 years in Indian jails. They did not solve the issue with him until they made him bow down and forced him to sign the accord. On the Human Rights Day on 10 December we protested against human rights violations. They lathi-charged us, fired bullets and arrested even women. They do not let us continue peacefully. Perhaps India deliberately wants the militancy and gun culture to continue. Otherwise, if they feet that gun culture should not remain here, people should be allowed to continue their struggle freely. Since we claim to be a democracy, peaceful struggle shouldn't be targetted by gun. If they had this approach, there would be no validity for militancy. Militancy would have been cast off automatically. But these people themselves are supporting violence. As I told you, they do not allow us even to offer Farewell Friday and Eid prayers. This means that these people want the gun to be used, want the violence to continue so that they get justification to use guns in return.
But it seems the gun has been weakened considerably...
Where you have over 800,000 soldiers with overwhelming power, gun power will decrease.
Wasn’t your movement weakened by the split in APHC?
No weakness has occurred. No split has taken place. Where there is a cause, it will be the criterion to examine and test everyone. Those who work according to the cause should have the right to continue their work. If the cause is damaged by the deeds or thoughts of someone, it is the requirement of the cause not allow such a person to inflict more damage. Therefore, in the light of the cause and the struggle, when we saw that the cause was being damaged by their deeds, we told them that we will not allow you to inflict more damage on the cause. As such the cleansing act was resorted to.
But Hurriyat apparently was weakened by this action...
No, no weakness occurred. See that the structure of Hurriyat was complete for ten years. Ask India if they felt the need to talk to Hurriyat during that period? Why they did not take the benefit of the unity of Hurriyat? They even closed down our Delhi office. All this is just an excuse.
So, in your view, India is not interested in talking...
Not, not just talking, they are not interested in solving the problem. They do talk. They are talking now to offer internal autonomy. They are ready to talk on these points but not to solve the issue. They are not ready to offer self-determination. They do not want to talk about the real issue which necessitated our people’s sacrifices. Why people have offered so much sacrifices? They did not do it for the sake of roads and internal autonomy. They did not do this for a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Where was the need to sacrifice so many lives for such things?
Now they are talking of autonomy. Will the return to the pre-1953 position not solve the issue?
No, this will not solve the issue. Autonomy was there earlier too. From 1947 to the regime of Ghulam Sadiq, we had a “prime minister” instead of a “chief minister”, the “head of state” (sadr-e riyasat) was a state subject as there was no question of having a nominated “governor”. The Election Commission or the Supreme Court of India had no jurisdiction there. No law could be enforced there without first being ratified by the state assembly. This was the situation there which was abolished by India itself. When India has itself rendered this experiment a failure with its own action and ill-intentions, how can we rely upon it now?
Whenever in history an agreement is concluded between a weak and a strong party, only the strong one has benefited. It was agreed at Shimla that talks will be held about Kashmir but 33 years have passed since and India has not moved an inch forward to solve the problem through negotiations. We have the experience of 57 years with us. We are talking on the basis of this; we are not firing aimlessly in the air. Farooq Abdullah government presented Vajpayee with a resolution on autonomy. These people threw it into the dustbin without even looking at it. And now they are saying that we will offer internal autonomy. We say that this is not our target. We are not struggling in order to win internal autonomy. We demand the right to self-determination. We have unambiguously declared time and again that if the majority of the people of Jammu & Kashmir decides to remain with India, we will accept that decision without any hesitation. Every land is our land because it is God's land. We are struggling for a cause. India had given us some promises. Now it has gone back on those promises and controls us on the basis of power. We are fighting against this blind power. We will continue to fight as long as we are alive. So long as we are alive we will continue to fight against oppression, injustice and armed violence. We will not surrender.
This means the issue will never come to an end…
It will. Why it will not come to an end? It will, whenever India wants to.
But at present it seems there is no such thinking here…
This is exactly what I am saying. Those who tell us to surrender, let them talk to these people and tell them to talk to us and solve the problem instead of taking intransigent positions and keeping a whole people by use of power.
You have just said that if people decide to live with India, you'll accept it too.
This will be decided in a plebiscite according to the UN resolutions. Not like it is now. What you have now is military control.
But Kofi Annan says that UN resolutions have lost their relevance now…
What will be the position of the UN if Kofi Annan says about resolutions passed for a people that these are null and void? Which agreement then will be honoured in the world? No one can nullify agreements made for any people. A European Union delegation visited Kashmir at length in 2004. They said at the end of their visit that the UN resolutions are the best means to solve the Jammu & Kashmir issue. They said that "Kashmir is a beautiful prison" and that Kashmir has the biggest concentration of army in the world.
Politically the conditions now are such that Pakistan is not powerful enough to force a solution on India and the Kashmiri people have seen that the way of violence did not pay. Is there no need to rethink this?
I have already said that if the implementation of the UN resolutions is not acceptable to you, let the three parties sit together to find a lasting solution, keeping in view the historical perspective of Kashmir, one which will be acceptable to the people of Kashmir.
What if they accept such a thing. They have not rejected this.
They do not accept this. India does not consider the freedom-loving people of Jammu & Kashmir as a party.
Then what are they talking about?
They are talking about an internal agreement by ignoring Pakistan. And when they talk to Pakistan they say, let us find a solution acceptable to the two countries.
I think the policy says that at the end there will be a meeting in which Kashmiris will take part.
When this takes place we will put our views across. As long as we don't get the price of our sacrifices, our struggle will continue. We will not compromise on internal autonomy.
Your colleagues have suffered attacks aiming at their lives recently. What do you say about this?
It’s simple. These attacks were orchestrated by the government so that Geelani surrenders.
‘Our struggle will continue inspite of Pakistan’
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