In an exclusive interaction with I am in DNA reporter Samiya Latief, senior separatist leader SAS Geelani talks about BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the way forward for Jammu and Kashmir
Here are edited excerpts:
You have given a boycott call again for elections? Do you think simply boycotting the elections would yield anything?
A place that has been enslaved does not get anything by voting. When we don’t have basic freedom to live peacefully, what does a vote mean to us? Elections mean something wherein rights are respected but the rights of Kashmiris have been violated again and again, so the voting process is futile for us. We have to first get freedom from the occupation. It is our responsibility to guide people but ultimately it is their decision.
You chose the democratic way of elections in 1971, what has changed since then?
I decided to fight elections to counter Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and his government, their ideas and plans. I had two main objectives while fighting elections. One that all the political parties were selling lofty ideas and development to the people but in the Assembly they used to make laws against the social and moral fabric of the society like lease of the land by the National Conference at that time and other things. The second objective was the most important issue of Kashmir and whenever I voted it was anti-India and pro-Kashmir.
The major concern of people while boycotting elections is where will they go for their basic needs like bijli and paani?
The Hurriyat leader responded that things won’t change even if we vote. Whether we vote or not, whoever forms the government has the duty to fulfill these basic needs and requirements of the people. Kashmiris do pay taxes. The first and foremost responsibility of any government is to take care of human lives, property, religion but they have always failed to protect us. Instead of protecting us, they are misusing us and our resources including water and land. They are using our water resources to build power projects and then give electricity to India while we remain in darkness. They are exploiting our land by giving it to the Army like in Gulmarg 28 lakh kanals are under the control of the Army, similarly 5200 kanals of forest land in Shopian is now an army cantonment. And yes, we are fighting for our rights of Azaadi where development is not the first priority.
Have you at any point felt that youth of Kashmir are a little disconnected from you and their priorities are changing?
Tha jo na khoob, batadreej wohi ‘khoob’ hua – ke ghulami main badal jata hai qaumun ka zameer. That there is a small section of youth who get disillusioned with things like jobs and development offered to them. The youth is an asset in every nation and the pro-occupation forces are after them everywhere. They try to woo them with different policies but majority of the youngsters of Kashmiris I assure you are with the freedom movement. And plus, this is all propaganda of the Indian media creating wrong conceptions that youth of Kashmir do not want Azaadi. Why doesn’t the media show the killings and rapes? Why is it silent when there are human rights violations in Kashmir every single day? The youth of Kashmir is much more conscious today and they very well know the importance of azaadi from India.
What are your expectations from the new government which will be formed in May?
As far as dispute of Kashmir is concerned, it does not matter which party is at the Centre. Congress has ruled for more than 40 years, but it didn’t help in any way to solve the issue of Kashmir. There were more than 40,000 riots during the Congress rule, Congress hanged our Afzal Guru who was an innocent.
Are you in any way worried about Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister? Do you think Modi will try to take forward the talk Vajpayee had started during the NDA rule?
If people think Vajpayee had a soft stand on Kashmir, it is all untrue. Whatever Atal Bihari Vajpayee said was in air and nothing was done on the ground. Even in the NDA rule, same things happened in Kashmir. Pro-freedom movement was heavily curbed. And about Modi, I have no hesitation in calling him a murderer. It was his responsibility being the Chief Minister of Gujarat to protect and safeguard the minority but he did not do so. He is a RSS follower. Hurriyat and the people of Kashmir have no expectations from them at all. There have been many talks during these years but they start this only to buy time. India is not sincere to resolve the dispute of J&K at all, all they want to do is to occupy people of Kashmir by force.
When we talk about Kashmir, you have always maintained that Pakistan is the alternative for Kashmiris. But with Pakistan itself so weak and unstable do you still pin your hopes on it?
Pakistan since its inception has been a victim of propaganda by the US, Russia, India and others. Pakistan is the only country among 57 others with nuclear power, so it comes under attack very often. Pakistan is surely a stake-holder in the J&K dispute. When the accession of princely states of India was in process, the three major points kept in consideration were: geographical position of a place, the religious inclination and most of all the cultural similarities between the people. All these reference points prove that we should have been part of Pakistan and not India.
Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan and their policy about anti-girl education has been termed dangerous worldwide, what do you have to say about it?
I despise the idea vehemently as there is very harmful. Everything in this world can be achieved by education and persuasion and the women form an important part of our society. Even Islam has emphasized about the importance of girl education. Nothing can be achieved by killing or by force. Killings anywhere by anyone is condemnable.
US withdraws its forces from Afghanistan, is there is any chance of Taliban and Al-qaeda turning towards Kashmir?
It is a propaganda of different countries and media. Even if NATO forces leave Afghanistan, there is a lot for Taliban and others to take care of in Afghanistan. The internal conflict of Afghanistan between various parties like Communists and different ideologies won’t give the Taliban the time to think about Kashmir. Otherwise when Soviet Union had left Afghanistan, it could have formed a normal government but it could not.
Do you feel that the increasing tensions of Pakistan and Iran have a harmful impact to both countries?
These two nations need to shun their differences, proceed with a dialogue and should be unified for peace. It is my humble request to both the countries and my wish also that they should come together in the interest of the whole Ummah.
Coming back to Kashmir, does anything chane if PDP or BJP comes to power?
No matter who comes to power at the Centre or the state, for the people of Kashmir only the faces change, rest remains the same. They are all ‘one’ when it comes to the dispute of Kashmir – be it Congress and BJP or NC and PDP. Even the emergence of AAP is the same and nothing changes.
BJP manifesto talks about abrogation of Article 370, what is your view about it?
The only issue right now is occupation. Article 370 is empty, it doesn’t matter whether it is abrogated or not. Our sole issue is that the guidelines of the UN resolution should be passed. Everything other than that is a non-issue.
The latest speculation is that you nominated your son as your successor.
Nothing like that has even happened or been discussed. It was only a rumour created by media.
What after Geelani then? Who will be the face of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat after you? Is there any leadership crisis within this separatist faction?
Tehreek-e-Hurriyat has a plan of its own. The Constitution of the party will surely produce some alternative as and when required and that decision would be in the interest of the people of Kashmir.