Syed Ali Geelani: The Struggle For Kashmir’s Self-Determination Continues
Self-determination, despite its ambiguities, has blossomed into a pivotal element in international relations in recent times. It has proven the key to resolving long festering disputes and unforgiving conflicts. Exemplary have been Namibia, East Timor, Southern Sudan etc. In each case, self-determination was fuelled by oppressive rule, whether foreign or otherwise. They also derived strength from international law and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Kashmir fits these precedents like a glove. The princely state attained independence on August 15, 1947, when British paramountcy lapsed. When an indigenous insurgency threatened to topple the repressive rule of the Hindu Maharaja, the Indian army invaded Kashmir on October 26, 1947 in reliance on an Instrument of Accession to India that British scholar Alistair Lamb has proven as bogus as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
It was said by some that the NATO military intervention in Kosovo to defend the human rights of Kosovar Albanians against Slobodan Milosevic marked a watershed in the protection of human rights. No longer would the world tolerate a nation’s subjugation of its own people. But that sanguine observation, in my opinion, was vastly overstated. I believe NATO intervention in Kosovo would not have been forthcoming if the refugee problem had not spilled over into the countries of the European Union. That conclusion is supported by the indifference shown by Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who made a clear distinction between Ukrainians and others. He said on March 1, 2022, “These people (Ukrainians) are Europeans.” “These people are intelligent; they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists …”
In sum, it seems to me that until there evolves a generally accepted moral duty among peoples and nations to assist all victims of widespread human rights violations by force or other stiff retaliation, human rights enforcement mechanisms will operate haphazardly and whimsically for reasons unrelated to the harm to the victims or the villainy of the perpetrators. It is our job to jump-start that moral evolution
Syed Ali Geelani, an iconic and the most recognizable leader was the symbol of defiance who stood firm for the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. He was not only an intellectual, and deep thinker but also a brilliant and an articulate scholar. Above all, he was an institution by himself.
We do remember what Gandhi said about Quaid-e-Azam: “Mr. Jinnah is incorruptible and brave. I believe no power can buy him.” Same can be said about Geelani Sahib. Let me quote, Dr. Sameer Kaul, a well-known cardiologist and a Kashmiri Pandit, who said as reported by Rediff.com on October 11, 2010, that Geelani Sahib has become incorruptible. 80 percent Kashmiris respect Geelani Sahib simply because he is not corrupt. Geelani Sahib is an honest and sincere to his people, Dr. Kaul added.
New York based Associated Press reported on September 2, 2021, “During Kashmir’s recent years of civilian protests, the slogan “Na Jhukne Wala Geelani! Na Bikne Wala, Geelani! (Geelani, the one who doesn’t bow and can’t be bought!)” became almost a war cry on the streets.”
New York Times also quoted one of the most moving conversations between Geelani Sahib and Police officer. “Open the door, I won’t fly away,” he tells the officers. “We want to perform a funeral for your democracy.”
Geelani Sahib never compromised on the principle of right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. That was echoed by New York Times also on September 2, 2021, that Syed Ali Geelani was an uncompromising leader of Kashmir.
When President Musharraf suggested to sideline the UN Security Council resolutions to find the out of box solution and proposed four-point formula. It was none other than Geelani Sahib who rejected the formula, simply because it was against the basic principle of the right to self-determination.
Geelani Sahib never closed the channel of communication with world leaders and even with his adversaries. He wrote to N. N. Vohra, then the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir as reported by Daily Tribune (October 14, 2016). “Because of non-resolution of this issue (Kashmir), the region lives in a state of fear, uncertainty, and mistrust. Wars have been fought, thousands of lives lost, and blood spilled, but to no avail,” and that “Kashmir is a political problem and can only be resolved politically and not militarily. No amount of military might will resolve it, which has been made evident in the past seven decades.”
Geelani Sahib wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on September 6, 2013, “The Kashmiri people have always been grateful for the principled support for universal human rights and a peaceful, negotiated settlement to all international disputes by the members of the European Union, including Germany. But Kashmiris are dismayed and disappointed by the decision of the German Embassy in India to organize a concert in Kashmir conducted by Zubin Mehta as part of “broader engagements” with Kashmiri people. We believe that this concert is being used by India to legitimize its military Occupation of our land and whitewash its shameful atrocities in Kashmir.”
In an open letter to members of Indian Parliament, Geelani Sahib wrote, “I am addressing you on behalf of my people, who have been striving for peace, justice, freedom, and dignity. During these years we have suffered immensely at the hands of your armed forces, who are implementing the policy of subjugation and control over our lives, resources, culture, and dignity. My words may be harsh as I do not know of any other way of conveying the brutalization which my people have faced because of your state policies.”
Geelani Sahib urged the conscientious Indian parliamentarians to initiate a debate in the parliament on the issue of unmarked graves, mass graves and all kinds of crimes being perpetrated on the people of Jammu and Kashmir and assert to end this shameful and tyrannical chapter of occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
Geelani Sahib also wrote to the members of Parliament of Pakistan, ‘We are grateful for the support of the Pakistani people and expect that politicians and all sections of the Pakistani society will continue to extend its moral, political, and diplomatic support to the Jammu and Kashmir freedom struggle. We urge the Pakistani people to protect the sacrifices of people of Jammu and Kashmir during all these years and not allow any dilution or laxity in the principled stand of Pakistan vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir.”
Geelani Sahib wrote to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), “The OIC is a very potent body, powerful enough to influence the global decisions and enforce its own agenda but what has been preventing it to perform the role history has cast for it. Why it has not so for succeeded in persuading India for living by its promise and conceding right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The reason as I see has been that majority of member countries of OIC have not been living by the resolutions adopted on Kashmir in its meetings and summits in their relations with India.”
Geelani Sahib proved prophetic when he said at a press conference, on October 26, 2009, that 500,000 Biharia will be given Kashmiri citizenship. Six to seven hundred thousand army will be given citizenship to change the demography of Kashmir. Then, India will say OK, let us have a referendum now.
That is exactly what is happening in Kashmir now. The enactment of Domicile Law has pushed the nation of Kashmir to the brink of extinction. More than 4.1 million Domicile certificates have been issued within the past two years just to change the demography of Jammu & Kashmir, and to change majority Muslim population into minority. Mr. Hirdesh Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu & Kashmir said on August 17, 2022, that “We are expecting an addition of (2 to 2.5 million) new voters in the final list,” including non-Kashmiris living in the region.
The above-mentioned facts make it clear that Kashmir’s suffering is a rebuke to the United Nations for its inaction. The situation is a call on the conscience of the members of the Security Council, particularly to the United States.
Dr. Nazir Gilani has Witten to the UN Secretary General that “Modi Government does not seem to have any regard for the two UN Reports on Kashmir, the concerns expressed by United States of America, China, pleadings of the Government of Pakistan and concerns expressed by the international community. Delhi is all out to decimate the Kashmiri Muslims and violate their right to a quality of life and dignity of person in the Valley.”
Lastly, with the passing of Geelani Sahib, a leader par excellence, who was also a symbol of humanity and champion of human rights all over the world, be it Palestine, Myanmar, Chechnya, Kashmir or else, it is an end of an era.