Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is 82 years old and has spent a large part of his life – till 2011, 17 jail stints and house arrests – battling the Indian state for a Kashmiri right to self-determination. Today, he’s also battling perceptions of having softened his position on the Kashmir issue. Geelani spoke with Rakhi Chakrabarty about why he thinks more discussions with the Indian state will lead nowhere, why Pakistan still makes a good ally – and how a passport remains vital:
There are reports you have now softened your stance on the Kashmir issue and are involved in Track II initiatives in Delhi towards resolution of the dispute?
Such reports are false propaganda to create confusion. I have not softened my stand on Kashmir. I am not ready for Track II initiatives either. I stick to my earlier stand that there’s no question of dialogue with India till our five-point demands are met – India must accept Kashmir as a disputed territory, withdraw security forces, repeal draconian laws like AFSPA and PSA, bring security personnel responsible for killing Kashmiris to justice and release political prisoners. My stand is not wrong or unnatural. It’s based on historical facts, on UN resolutions signed by both India and Pakistan. So, why should i soften my stand?
Can’t these issues be resol-ved through talks?
Well, dialogue should be result-oriented and meaningful… talks on Kashmir must be tripartite – between India, Pakistan and real representatives of J&K who represent the aspirations of the people for the right to self-determination. There can be no solution under the purview of the Indian Constitution.
You are opposed to dialogue with India alone – why are you talking to Pakistan?
Pakistan accepts Kashmir is a disputed territory. Pakistan accepts our right to self-determination. It says it will continue to support the people of J&K politically, diplomatically and morally. India, on the other hand, refuses to accept any of our demands… It’s occupying Kashmir at gunpoint and the J&K government is a puppet of the government of India. They can’t even take a decision to release political prisoners until Delhi tells them to. Under such circumstances, what’s the point in having a dialogue? Since 1952, there have been talks 155 times – what’s the outcome? It’s a futile exercise.
But with terrorism, the Balochistan issue and other tensions, Pakistan is battling its own internal turmoil today – how can it help you?
There is internal turmoil in India too… yes, it is more in Pakistan. But Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal problem. It doesn’t concern us in Kashmir.
When talking with Pakistan, do you discuss cross-border terrorism in J&K where ordinary people get killed by militants?
There is no cross-border terrorism in J&K… we condemn killing by militants and Indian forces. We are peaceful people but we cannot control others. Our struggle has been peaceful. But we are facing state terrorism from India.
You’ve been invited to Pakis-tan quite often. But you’ve not yet gone – how come?
How will i go? I don’t have a passport. Last year my daughter who lives in Jeddah fell ill. My wife and i wanted to visit her. We applied for passports, but they did not issue us any… We then approached the court. The passport officer in Srinagar said he will issue us passports if the court case was withdrawn. I withdrew the case – but till today, i haven’t been given a passport.