Freedom chants for Kashmir, Pandits react violently
Panelists keenly listening to Syed Ali Shah Geelani at LTG auditorium, New Delhi. Photo: Yasir Iqbal
By Fahad Shah
Sitting in an auditorium on a clammy afternoon of end-October, an enthusiastic audience chanting pro-freedom slogans after each praises to the speakers was the scene in New Delhi on Thursday. Little Theatre Group auditorium in central city, just three kilometers away walking distance from the higher house of Indian government, Parliament house was like a human-hive. It was six-hour long organized convention on the ongoing situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Azadi: The only way by Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP).
The air was filled with the slogans: we want freedom. It added more to the already passionate gathering. Eyes were focused on the intellectual podium. Thirst of Independence and the anger of brutal force could be seen in most of the eyes. Some were wet as the pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani stepped into the hall making his way between the two human chains of security men and fervent volunteers escorting him to the podium. Wearing a goatskin cap with a white Khandress, he was accompanied by his son. A passionate applause echoed in the hall as he waved his wrinkled hands. An octogenarian fatherly figure with beaming face sat on the chair while greeting other panelists.
While the speakers were speaking someone got call, Arundhati Roy will be arriving here at anytime. Volunteers and his fans went outside to welcome her. A smiling face with a tiny prick gleaming in her left nostril stepped out of the black Versa-Taxi from the left window of the back seat. Walking small fast steps towards the auditorium the biggest critic of Indian democracy and the Queen of Words —a literary terrorist entered in the hall. As she entered from the front right door of the hall audience welcomed her with praise. She sat on the right hand side of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and greeted him with a smile. Dressed in Saree, Roy was carrying something in her eyes which all want to know. A brown suede bag was slung on her right shoulder. Her curly black-grey hair was uncovered but the Photojournalists covered the dais to shoot her best pictures.
As Roy start speaking some pro-India Kashmiri pandits and Indian nationalists raised anti-Kashmir, anti-Geelani, anti-freedom slogans continuing their interruption in the meet right from the time it started. The activists, mainly from a Hindu group that is demanding separate land for migrant Kashmiri Pandits, shouted slogans like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”. They were sitting around 5th row of the hall and waved Indian flag. In response to that SAR Geelani was telling them to behave as civilized and they will be given time to speak after Arundhati concludes. But the hooligan elements didn’t remained silent and continued their interruption saying 1500 pandits have been killed since the year 1989 (Official report of J-K government confirmed 209 Kashmiri Pandits were killed since 1989. Reported by Muzamil Jaleel on May 5, 2005, for The Indian Express) in Kashmir when the armed rebellion broke out in the Valley.
Audience answered with slogans like “We want freedom”, “Go India Go” and “Kaun karega tarjumani, Syed Ali Shah Geelani”. However, authorities had deployed a large number of police persons at the venue. Police whisked away the activists of radical group “Panun Kashmir” and detained dozens of them. They were later released.
Someone from the audience threw papers towards the dais which didn’t hit Roy. She was smiling and earlier to all this before beginning she said, “If anyone is carrying shoe than hurl it now.” In her speech she asked the Kashmiri leadership if they had thought enough over what kind of a society you have been fighting for. “You need to be clear about it. Otherwise you will be like fish swimming furiously and bombing the walls that are too strong till you get tired.”
Roy said, “We should not forget that Kashmiris cannot inhale or exhale without the breath going through the barrel of guns.” Adding further she repeated that ‘India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs from India.’
Kashmir has been under the war like situation as stones are answered by bullets leaving 111 people killed, hundreds injured and many disabled in the last four months. Though, Indian government tried to pacify the situation by sending All Party Delegation from Delhi and then Interlocutors who are expected to talk with people of Kashmir. But most of the Kashmiris have rejected any dialogue until the 5-point proposal given by Hurriyat in August will not be accepted. Geelani also reinforced that no one from Kashmir will talk to Interlocutors until the demands are not met. “I request all Kashmiri students and traders associations to boycott them. There had been 150 dialogue processes with India which resulted in null,” he appealed.
In his speech he said, “Our war is with the establishment not with the people of India. The people of India should understand that gross human rights violations were being committed in the state in their name.”
Adding further he said the system of justice in an independent Jammu and Kashmir would be such that even liquor would not be banned for non-Muslims. “It would be prohibited for the Muslim majority but if minorities feel they want to have liquor they would be allowed to consume as their right,” he said.
Geelani said the Kashmir society would be inclusive and asked Pandits who fled the valley in 1989 at the start of the armed separatist campaign to return. “Muslims who form a majority will provide security to them (Pandits) in case they make up their minds. Dogras (from Jammu) and Buddhists (in Ladakh) are an important part of the state like Pandits,” he said.
Geelani reiterated his position that the Kashmir issue could be solved only through the right to self-determination and the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be given a chance to determine their fate. “Whatever the majority wills will emerge from the plebiscite and would be acceptable to all,” he said.
Most of the speakers were from outside the Valley like revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Professor G N Saibaba, Professor Mihir Bhattacharya, CPI (ML)- New Democracy, Dr. Aparna, Professor of Law, Kashmir University, Sheikh Showkat Hussain, Assistant Editor, Economic Times, Najeeb Mubaraki, General Secretary, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Dr. N. Venu, the writer-activist Arundhati Roy, Chairman, Hurriyat Conference (G) as Chief Guest, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and writer, Shuddhabrata Sengupta spoke at the meeting. Professor DU & Working President CRPP, SAR Geelani was conducting the proceedings on behalf of the organizing committee.
Inder Salim, an artist who is originally from Kashmir, currently living in Delhi, presented a theatrical work by posing as masked stone pelter along with other boys and girls in the hall. Adding further to the revolutionary atmosphere, students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University sang a song, ‘Tu Zinda Hai to Zindagi Ki Jeet Mein Yakeen Kar’. Concluding the meeting resolutions were passed by the CRPP, which were read, on behalf of it by Mihir Bhattacharya.
Reacting to the disturbance created by the Pandits a student of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Idrees Kanth while expressing his views on the convention said, “Kashmiri Pandits are very intolerant people. Every time Kashmiri Muslims have tried to organize something here in New Delhi, these Pandits have made all attempts to disrupt it. While Kashmiri Muslims are willing to acknowledge the suffering of the other community Kashmiri Pandits remain defiant.”
Today Valley is under curfews, strikes, protests, and the loss which doesn’t hamper the government but the people have been left at God’s will neither the state accepts any of the pro-freedom demands nor they can reach out to people as the whole population of Valley has so far rejected any political dialogue without any fruitful results.
The convention was endorsed and supported by Kashmiris in Delhi (KiD), Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights and Justice (NPMHR), Campaign Against War on People, Democratic Students Union (DSU), Tamil Students Union, and Virasam Revolutionary Writers Association (Andhra Pradesh.