‘People voting in elections is biggest hurdle we face in our struggle for freedom’
Srinagar: All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Geelani on Friday completed eight years – 2,920 days – under house detention. In an exclusive interview with Kashmir Reader, the 88-year-old Geelani said that the years he spent detained inside his Hyderpora home-cum-office taught him a “lesson of tolerance”.
“These years have given me strength to tolerate the fascist oppression,” Geelani said. “It is a lesson of commitment also taught in our history: when our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was detained for three years in Shab-i-Abi Talib, no one was allowed to enter the house and at times our beloved Prophet (SAW) had to eat dried leaves.”
Geelani, who is a prolific Urdu writer as well, was detained in his two-storey house after he led a massive public uprising in 2010. He has only been allowed to move out in medical emergency or at times to fly to Delhi for a medical check-up.
A native of Zoor-i-Manz in Baramulla’s Sopore area, Geelani has spent over 20 years in various jails in J&K and outside. He lives on an artificial pace-maker, and one-and-a-half part of his kidneys has been removed. He moved to Hyderpora permanently in the 1990s.
Geelani was initially associated with the Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) J&K, but in 2004 parted ways along with his lifetime associate Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, with whom he formed the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which he heads since.
“Police and CRPF vans have been stationed outside the main gate of my house, along with J&K Police and CRPF personnel who have been stopping entry of people and those from the media,” Geelani said. “It is the worst rights’ violation but we don’t have to be sad as we are on the right path. Allah is with us but we need to show commitment to the cause.”
“Slavery is worse than death,” Geelani quoted Sir Muhammad Iqbal. “Such is the evil of slavery that one cannot know the real faith of a slave even if he/she is a Hafiz-e-Qur’an.”
“All those who are associated with religious work and propagation of Islam should know that unless and until we get freedom, our life, culture, religion, dignity and property is not safe,” Geelani said. “It is important for us to get rid of this illegal military occupation, and for that we need to utilise our minds and all the resources we have.”
The ailing Hurriyat chief said that people of Jammu and Kashmir have given “huge sacrifices” since 1947. “Our five lakh brothers and sisters were butchered in 1947 and, since 1990, one lakh Kashmiris have been killed. People continue to give sacrifices everyday but we need to show commitment to safeguard our remarkable sacrifices,” he said.
Referring to electoral politics, Geelani said, “Voting in elections for the assembly, Lok Sabha, local bodies and panchayats is the biggest hurdle in our fight for freedom. It is my earnest appeal to people that they should stay away from such a process.”
“Our nation is not safeguarding our huge sacrifices the way they should be,” he added. “But, the fact is, our people are not behind in giving sacrifices for the sake of freedom. We need to just safeguard them.”
In Urdu, Geelani said, “My message to my people is: Don’t be sad!”
“Allah Almighty clearly tells us in holy Qur’an: It is My responsibility to help the rightful,” Geelani said, quoting holy verses. “And, let me tell you, people of J&K are on the rightful path in seeking freedom from military occupation.”
An author of 30 books, Geelani said he was fortunate to utilise the time during his detention for writing.
“Dr Iqbal’s poetry is a huge treasure for Muslims and his main poetic work is in Persian,” Geelani said. “Since my house arrest in 2010, I have, Alham du lillah, completed three volumes of translation of Dr Iqbal’s poetry in Persian, along with a commentary.”
Of his daily schedule Geelani said that his day starts with pre-dawn prayers, followed by recitation of Holy Qur’an and then reading of newspapers. He lives with his wife. All his children, including two sons, are married and live independently.
“Due to the severe cold, Geelani sahab remains mostly indoors,” said one of his office assistants.
In a statement, the Hurriyat Conference (G) said on Friday that no court “ever issued any formal order for Geelani’s detention”.
“The rule of law has been thrown to dust in Kashmir,” the Hurriyat (G) said. “Police authorities have so far failed to produce any court order or any administrative document in support of this illegal detention. What is the justification in turning his residence into a sub-jail?”