By IQBAL KIRMANI | 26 July 2016
On 18 July 2016, the journalist Iqbal Kirmani organised an interview with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, one of the most prominent and powerful separatist leaders in Kashmir. The questions were sent to Geelani, who has been under house arrest, and the interview was recorded on a mobile phone. The identity of the person who asked Geelani the questions that Kirmani had sent him, has been concealed for his protection. The recorded interview was then handed back to Kirmani. It is the first public statement Geelani has made since protests broke out in the Kashmir valley after the death of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. On 25 July, Geelani was taken into preventive custody after he defied prohibitory orders and attempted to march towards the Anantnag district of south Kashmir. He has reportedly been released.
Anonymous: In the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death, how do you view the wave of protests that has engulfed Kashmir?
Syed Ali Shah Geelani: See, the present wave dates back to India’s forcible and unlawful occupation [of Jammu and Kashmir] since 1947, against which there has been continuous resistance. Till now, six lakh lives have been sacrificed against India’s forcible occupation. The present revolutionary zeal is a part of this resistance that has been ongoing for the past 67 years. The people here never accepted India’s forcible occupation wholeheartedly. They have always resisted it and made great and incomparable sacrifices. So, after Commander Burhan’s martyrdom, the deep adherence shown by the people to this resistance and these martyrs has given it a new life. This should be carried on in any way possible.
A: India has expressed its exasperation with the visibly proactive role that Pakistan seems to play in these matters. How do you view India’s position?
G: India has always adopted this stance whenever Pakistan has raised the Jammu and Kashmir problem and reminded it of the 18 resolutions that have been passed in the United Nations Organisation. According to those resolutions, the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination. India’s regime is built on lies, on deception. It is not ready to accept the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. It has signed 18 resolutions in the United Nations Organisation, it has accepted them, even Pakistan has, and the army fraternity is witness to this.
India should take a realistic stance, which, it is not doing because it is dependent on, and intoxicated by power. So, whenever Pakistan tries to raise this problem, whenever it supports self-determination for the people of Jammu-Kashmir, India is rattled and infuriated. As a result of this fury, it says to Pakistan, “You don’t have a stake in this problem,” when in reality it is a party to this problem. Pakistan is a party in the same way that India is. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have resisted India’s forcible occupation, are a party too. So, India’s stance does not take reality into account. The world is not taking any notice of this and neither is the army fraternity. Pakistan’s rulers, politicians, and even its people should not worry about this. In fact, they should continue extending the support they have provided for the rights [of the people] and the truth, no matter what the circumstance.
A: Indian politicians are trying to link the present protests to unemployment and lack of development. Is this correct?
G: This is completely wrong. It has been said again and again that the problem of Jammu-Kashmir is not a problem of unemployment, not a problem of law and order, not a problem of the lack of essential commodities for the people. This is a political problem. All the people here understand the problem as a problem of survival and death: that if we are unable to free ourselves of India’s occupation, then nothing is secure. Our land is not secure, our natural resources are not secure, our culture is not secure, our forests are not secure—nothing of ours is secure. That is why it is our duty to free ourselves from India’s forcible occupation. I have said it again and again that in the way that the namaz, roza, hajj and zakat are duties, taking part in this resistance is also our duty; that in any condition, we must participate in the resistance to achieve freedom from India’s forcible and unlawful occupation.
A: Did Burhan Wani ever try to contact you?
G: He spoke to me over the phone for the first time, a few days before his martyrdom. His manner of talking was one of extreme happiness and delight. He said, “You carry on your resistance and we too will keep on resisting,” and, “I have faith in you.” He was very cheerful. I would not have guessed that in a matter of days he would earn the reward of martyrdom. So, this was our meeting on the phone. I saw that he was extremely cheerful. You could say that he was ecstatic and full of hope about his resistance.
A: What was your first reaction when you heard about Burhan’s death?
G: You could say that my reaction was that of someone whose young and beloved son was snatched away. These were the emotions that emerged in my heart and head. I had no idea that people would express such love, such adherence, such respect and such happiness in support of this young martyr. This was unexpected. This completely unexpected situation emerged when lakhs of people attended his funeral. The funeral prayers for him were offered 40 times. Absentia prayers [funeral prayers that are conducted in the absence of a body] were offered not only in the valley, but also in Azad Kashmir, and other places too. This means that he was an innocent man, sincere to his cause of resistance. He had complete belief and trust in the resistance that he was a part of, and in its continuity. And that, inshallah, we will achieve victory.
A: In the present political situation, what is your message to the people?
G: For the people, my only message is that our struggle has been ongoing for 67 years. Since India is intoxicated with power, it is increasing its army’s force here again and again. Even today, we are seeing the number of forces being increased. This proves that India has no argument and no justification for the forcible occupation of Jammu-Kashmir. It wants to continue its subjugation by relying on force and might. It is trampling upon the chest of the innocent people of Jammu-Kashmir. We should continue our sacred struggle in every way possible.
So, my only appeal to my fellow oppressed people is that we shouldn’t get disappointed in any way, shouldn’t get dismayed in any way, shouldn’t get lazy in any way, but in fact, continue our sacred resistance under any circumstance. And we will, inshallah, definitely achieve victory, because we are on the path of truth. History tells us that whenever there’s a battle between might and truth, it is always the truthful that win. And in the same way, inshallah, inshallah, we too will achieve victory, because we are on the path of honesty, and Allah will certainly give victory to the truth.
A: Thank you.
This interview has been translated and edited.
Iqbal Kirmani is an independent journalist based in Kashmir.
Courtesy: The Caravan