In an exclusive interview with Arif Shafi Wani, senior editor Greater Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is under house arrest for past nearly eight years, talks about prevailing situation in the valley, and ways to resolve Kashmir issue
It has been a long journey of over 8 decades for you, beginning from Sopore. Can you trace your political life, and the challenges you faced?
I consider my life like that of many other Kashmiris, including stalwarts of the struggle for freedom, to be in the service of that great cause. In the course of the last seven decades or so, this struggle has seen many phases; ups and downs. The long history means that the struggle also went through various stages. Whether we faced challenges, and suffered during the struggle, we all think it was a small price to pay. Thousands of Kashmiri families have sacrificed so much that all other things pale in comparison to those immense contributions. Allah in His wisdom allowed me to play a part in this struggle and I have tried to hold those immense sacrifices of Kashmiris as a guiding light, to seek for its logical and ultimate conclusion, the freedom of Kashmir from the forcible control of India
Kashmir issue is political in nature and needs political solution. To press for its resolution, you also participated in several elections and were elected MLA thrice. Were you successful to raise Kashmir issue in the Assembly?
It is true, and we have maintained that Kashmir is a political issue. And, as I said, it’s a long history. There were phases when many thought other ways could be adopted to take the freedom struggle forward. But India has never practiced any democracy in Kashmir. It became clear to all Kashmiris that India’s presence in our sacred land was always by dint of force. We all have seen that they have always behaved like that, and always will. Therefore our response should be, according to Allah’s dictates and His command, to fight oppression and not to submit to it. And praise be to Him, the resolve of Kashmiris is there for the whole world to see.
During 2008 and 2010 uprisings, different separatist groups joined hands. After the killing of Burhan Wani, Joint Resistance Leadership was formed and people religiously follow its programme. Have the separatist groups united under the banner of JRL now?
On our part, through all phases of the struggle, the Hurriyat has always sought unity of people and purpose. And we shall continue to follow those principles until we achieve the logical end of the struggle, and that is freedom from India’s forcible control. Any other thing, or thought, will never be acceptable to the people of Kashmir, and they will always resist and isolate attempts to make them deviate from that final goal.
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have been holding talks over Kashmir, but there has been no breakthrough. You have been saying all along that Kashmiris are the basic party to the dispute and their inclusion is a must. For participation in talks, you have put a rider that India should first accept Kashmir as a disputed territory?
The pro-freedom leadership of Kashmir has always stressed that dialogue between the three parties to the dispute is the way forward. We have also agreed to talks in the past, but India’s double speak and utter lies have always been exposed. As Kashmiris have noted, India uses the idea of talks to deal with some situation, hoodwinking the world on what it is doing in Kashmir, and not as a sincere means of achieving peace.
Since the killing of Burhan Wani there is a trend that after killing of a militant, more youth, some highly educated, join militancy? And these youth are subsequently killed in encounters. What prompts youth to join militancy?
India continues its repression. The scale of abuse, humiliation and barbarity the Indian state has subjected Kashmiris to, is known to all. And that barbarity has closed doors to any other alternative, leaving no option for the youth expect to take up arms. After an armed fighter is killed, more youth spontaneously take up arms. But killing those who have taken up arms will not kill the sentiment, or idea of freedom.
You can yourself see the process still continues. The India state lies to the world about democracy in Kashmir, and tries to crush dissent and opposition to its illegal rule. And young people of Kashmir are still forced to take up guns. Kashmir has an inalienable right to self determination, but India’s response is so violent and brute that many feel there is no recourse except taking the gun. But India has never been able to, nor ever will, crush this idea of freedom.
What will be your future course of action?
We will keep pursuing our struggle. There is no power on earth, leave alone India government, that can change the course of a nation which has sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom. We have always stressed upon the India government to accept the realities, if they are not even ready to accept that Kashmiris are the main party to the dispute, what peace are they talking about.
Without caring for their lives, people rush to encounter sites to save the trapped militants. How do you view the trend?
Kashmiris, including women, are rendering great sacrifices in the ongoing movement. Where else in the world we find a mother asking her beloved son, who is trapped by Indian troops, not to surrender, and fight to achieve martyrdom. Kashmiris are inspired by such passion and sacrifices. India wants to project its violence, part of its illegal rule, as legitimate, and make all dissent illegitimate. Then it tries to make the response of the youth also appear criminal. But those false divisions have collapsed. People rushing to encounter sites to rescue fighters is one aspect of it. Killing people, and blinding, and jailing, and hounding, protesters will not kill, or even dent, the ideal of freedom.
United Nations have passed 18 resolutions on Kashmir. Besides decrying failure of UN to implement these resolutions, have you made any attempt to petition UN to remind it of its commitment?
The only way Kashmir can be resolved is by implementing UN resolutions. If New Delhi is serious, which it is not, it would have held plebiscite. After all, it says ‘Kashmir belongs to India’. Why not hold plebiscite, then? But they know they are brutally and illegally occupying our land, and our people. They also try this tamasha of democracy.
Kashmiris know that their struggle is just and also has the backing of international law. We will keep calling on international bodies and the world community to do more to make India accept the reality in Kashmir. Sooner or later India will have to accept it and Kashmiris will take its struggle to logical conclusion.
You have called for boycott of all elections. You believe that participation in these polls for basic amenities will affect the Kashmir issue. Can you explain?
They impose elections and by hook or crook induce and force people to participate. They use local collaborators and parties to say that these elections are for roads, water and electricity. But then try to make these votes into an imaginary referendum. Kashmiri people should fully understand this demeaning and ugly drama, and boycott all these elections imposed under various names and categories, but actually meant to serve the lies of India about Kashmir.
How do you view New Delhi’s policy on Kashmir? Do you see some shift on Kashmir policy from Congress to BJP?
The arrogant and brutal policy has always existed under various regimes in New Delhi. The oppression of helpless Kashmiris has continued under all governments in New Delhi. The RSS now uses its political face, the BJP, to try and infuse Hindutva ideology into that repression. They want to implement what their Israeli friends, rather partners in crime, tried to do in the occupied Palestine. Using issues related to Article 35A or 370 is part of this policy. But we will also resist this, as it is an attempt to change land and population holdings, and demography in Kashmir.
You have alleged that detention of political prisoners of Jammu and Kashmir is being prolonged. Can you cite some examples?
The plight of political prisoners including youngsters is terrible. There too, India flouts every law on treatment of prisoners. The persecution of dissenters and pro-freedom leaders under false and absurd charges has also been heightened. Even basic religious freedoms are flagrantly violated here.
From last eight years, you are under continued house arrest. How has it affected your life?
Being under constant house arrest for the last eight years I have been unable to even offer Friday prayers, leave alone Eid prayers. The space for pro freedom leaders has been squeezed as India wants we should be cut off from our people. They don’t even want that we reach out to our people or condole them, or console at times of trauma.