“Voter turnout is insignificant for us”

Aasha Khosa | December 20, 2014


Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G)
Maqbool Sahil

What does the huge voter turnout in the valley mean?
People have voted on the issue of ‘sadak, pani and bijli’– development.  However, this is not going to impact our movement [for azadi or independence]. I am confident that all those who have voted in the election are also for freedom. Hence, the voter turnout is insignificant for us. I always had this in mind that India will exploit the higher voter turnout in its favour, as we also did not press for a boycott this time. But India should know that our tehreek (movement) will not die with this.

Is it because the guns of militants have fallen silent in Kashmir that people are able to cast their votes?
Not really. Our tehreek is not dependent on the gun. We run this movement [for independence] with public support, which remains intact. It is a thought process. India may be a great democracy but not for people of Kashmir. Look at me; I am virtually under house arrest. Ever since the poll bugle was sounded, hundreds of pro-freedom activists have been put in jails. Police arrested 300 activists of my party in one day. These people are besides scores of others already under detention. I don’t consider elections as free when I am not free to move around and campaign my point of view.

But the people of Kashmir are surely sending a message about their desire to have development and also lead normal lives.
Kashmir is under occupation of the Indian forces, so we can never have normal lives. But India should know that nowhere has suppression ended a freedom movement. The army has been given unbridled powers in Kashmir and unless these are withdrawn, our lives will never be normal.

PM Narendra Modi has promised development of Kashmir. Does he impress you?
Narendra Modi talks a lot. Unless he delivers on Kashmir this means little to us. When he came he talked about invoking Kashmiriyat and realising the dream of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. All this is hollow talk unless proven through deeds. Modi needs to take a humane approach on Kashmir issue rather than [just] speaking on it.

You once said that all the struggle was aimed to impose the Islamic system on Kashmir. Have you changed your views?
I stand for justice. Frankly, today I don’t think there is justice even in 57 Islamic countries in the world. In fact, Muslims too have started doing injustice in the name of Islam by killing people at will. My point is that if we in Kashmir are permitted to have an ideal Islamic system, we can give a sense of justice to all.

Have you also changed your mind about Kashmir becoming a part of Pakistan?
The Kashmiri people want to exercise their right of self-determination mandated under the UN resolution. It was, in fact, India which took the matter to the UN which, in turn, recognised Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan. Why is India not holding plebiscite in the state for its final resolution? I am not saying that all people will vote against India, but this has to be executed.

Why would Kashmiris go with Pakistan, which is one of the most mis-governed nations with a reputation of being a nursery of terrorism?
This is the image of Pakistan created by media. Media all over the world is controlled by rich businesses and political forces of the West. Why single out Pakistan when there is trouble in other countries too? India particularly is intoxicated by its power, becoming an important global player, and would not mind running down Pakistan and also the legitimate aspirations of the people of Kashmir. This is a mass movement, like the Indian freedom struggle. Were the British able to suppress Indians forever?

Unlike the gun-culture of the Kashmir movement, the Indian freedom struggle was successful mainly because of Mahatma Gandhi and his doctrine of non-violence.

Mahatma Gandhi was great only for his qoum [the Hindus] or he would not have allowed India to do what it did to us. He is no world leader, but only a leader of his qoum.

Interviewed by Aasha Khosa

The interview appears in December 16-31, 2014, issue

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