‘Clean-shaven Iqbal understood Islam better than those with long beard; Urdu literature our treasure; Azadi from India our mission’
Srinagar: After more than a year, Syed Ali Geelani – the ailing Hurriyat Conference chairman – was on Thursday allowed to hold a gathering at his residence, on the occasion of the death anniversary of Imam Hussain (RA), who died fighting in Karbala 1400 years ago.
The event, which lasted more than five hours at the Hyderpora residence of Geelani, however, witnessed a meagre participation, with the majority of the audience comprising activists of the Geelani-led Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
Two armoured vehicles fitted with 360-degree cameras remained stationed outside the main gate of Geelani’s residence, and more than a dozen cops and CRPF men stood guard. Geelani has been under house arrest since 2010.
At 3:25pm, when the microphone was set up on the dais for Geelani to speak, the half-filled hall saw participants moving towards the dais to listen to Geelani, whose voice was very low.
Geelani spoke while seated on a chair. After his initial remarks, Geelani turned nostalgic. “Elders in the Jama’at would say that Geelani’s memory is very strong,” he recalled.
Geelani was referring to the days when he, as a basic member of Jama’at-e-Islami, addressed thousands of gatherings and meetings of the Jama’at. “But now,” he said, “I forget things.”
This confession of Geelani was evident during his explanation of the tragedy that befell Muslims in Karbala 1400 years ago. The scholars sitting in the audience had to help Geelani recall incidents or couplets, intermittently.
“I have lost that semblance and vigour (as an orator) in which I would deliver presidential addresses (during public meetings),” Geelani said of his days as the political bureau head of Jama’at up to 2004, when he parted ways with J&K’s largest socio-politico-religious organisation and formed Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
During his over 40-minute speech, Geelani exhorted the youth to follow the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW).
“Muslims in the world in general, and we in Kashmir in particular, are facing difficult times. The identity of Islam is under threat,” Geelani said, cautioning people against sectarianism. “This is my earnest appeal to youth: to make it their daily schedule to read Qur’an and Hadees,” he said. “For easy understanding of Qur’an, they should consult the 6-volume Tafheem-ul-Quran and for that, (knowing) Urdu is must.”
The octogenarian resistance leader said that Muslims in the subcontinent have their Islamic treasure in Urdu literature.
“Urdu is a must for Muslims in Kashmir, India and Pakistan, to understand Islam in the true sense,” he said. “More so,” he asserted, “I am of the firm belief that the clean-shaven Sir Muhammad Iqbal had understood Islam more clearly than those with long beard.”
The Kashmiri youth, Geelani insisted, “must read and follow the teachings of the ‘Poet of East’.”
Asking people to stay away from pro-India parties, Geelani said, “Dr Iqbal has made it clear in his poetry that slavery is worse than death. Slaves have to die every day under (an) occupation.”
“Slaves cannot understand the occupier’s tricks,” he said. “Roads, employment, hospitals, daily-wage jobs – they cannot make us forget the raids, the harassment of women, the rapes and killings of innocents,” Geelani said.
“To achieve success in the current crisis,” Geelani told his audience – which could be counted on fingertips – “Azadi from India should be our mission.”
“Vote or support to pro-India parties, which are helping strengthen the occupation of J&K, is death for us,” he added.
Today’s event was held at a time when the National Investigating Agency (NIA) is hounding the Hurriyat Conference in a case of alleged funding received from Pakistan for terror activities in J&K. Seven top Hurriyat Conference leaders have been arrested by NIA and are in judicial custody in Delhi for more than a month.
Geelani’s lifelong partner and deputy, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, was absent from the event as he was reportedly unwell.
Senior resistance leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik were not allowed to attend the conference by the government. A written speech by Mirwaiz was read on the occasion by Muhammad Rafiq Shah.
“There was confusion whether the conference will be allowed or not (by the government),” Geelani said, apparently referring to the low participation of people in the conference.