Syed Ali Geelani, the veteran J&K leader of the Kashmiri Separatist Party, the proponent of “Hum Pakistani Hain, Pakistan Hamara Hai” with his uncompromising advocacy for Kashmiri identity and the pro-Pakistani struggle to achieve ‘nationalism’, the ‘nation’ part of which transcends all geographical borders, ethnicities, and norms but entirely focuses on the unwavering bedrock of religion, had a life-long mission to compel Indian establishment to fulfill its commitment explicitly made to the people of Kashmir as well as the allegiance sworn to the international community to allow Kashmiris to determine their future. He believed that the forcible inclusion of Kashmir ultimately insults India’s professed morality and political values and so to save what is left of its honor, India must allow political exit of Kashmir, demilitarize the valley, and end state terrorism. He understood Pakistan’s support to the indigenous struggle of Kashmiris morally, diplomatically, and politically but he disregarded the idea that Pakistan should ever decide the future of Kashmir. This issue concerns the people of Kashmir and thus, is their call.
This was exactly why he didn’t think twice before rejecting Pervaiz Musharraf’s four-point formula, otherwise a ‘tactical retreat’, that proposed a threat to the autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Musharraf had told him that “India is a large country, with a population of over a billion. It possesses nuclear power and enjoys the support of Western countries. You have made sacrifices, and we have fought three wars too, but we have not achieved anything yet. Now, we must choose the path of reconciliation and compromise.”
He responded to these points made by Pervez Musharraf, stating, “Our stance and stand are based on truth. We should have faith and trust in Allah Almighty and continue our struggle unwaveringly. Allah Almighty will surely help us. We must never lose hope.” Inspired by Iqbal’s poetic inclination for critical thinking, he also recited a couplet:
بتوں سے تجھ کو امیدیں خدا سے نو میدی
مجھے بتا تو سہی اور کافری کیا ہے ؟
Geelani being a champion of Kashmir freedom and the Kashmiri struggle for freedom said, “Kashmir is not any border dispute between India and Pakistan which they can solve by bilateral understandings. It is the issue concerning the future of 15 million people. The Hurriyat is not in principle against a dialogue process but without the involvement of Kashmiri people, such a process has proved meaningless in the past. We don’t have any expectations of it being fruitful in the future too.”
Geelani’s approach was reminiscent of Iqbal’s emphasis on the significance of self-discovery and self-realization for nations. Iqbal’s concept of “khudi” (selfhood) and his call for Muslims to become aware of their inner aptitude and unique identity resonated with Geelani’s vision of Kashmiri identity and aspirations. Apart from this, Geelani aimed to achieve Islamic governance based on Islamic principles, a perspective shaped by Abu Al’Ala Maududi’s founding of a pan-Islamic movement that advocated Islamic conduct for Muslims in South Asia.
Syed Ali Geelani was often lauded for his resoluteness and uncompromising commitment towards his beliefs by other leaders of the freedom struggle as well as by the detractors with their deranged and despotic ideas of sabotaging democracy. In 1964 the authoritative Sheikh Abdullah, who himself never displayed a democratic temperament, conceded: “They (Jama’at) are doing a laudable job of character-building, which is the need of the hour.” As the public face of Jama’at, Geelani was often heavily criticized for promoting violence and was often displayed as being an ‘extremist’ when some of the other leaders in the same campaign managed to compromise their beliefs to attain India’s approbation of being ‘moderate’. As the late Barry Goldwater had said; “Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.”
Jama’at, as Geelani clarified, promotes changing public opinion through democratic means, preaching, and counseling; it does not achieve its goal through any means that are against the truth and integrity or those that lead to anarchy. “Jamaat-e-Islami does not champion the Kashmir cause for the sake of patriotism, nationality, race, language, or regionalism but for establishing the truth and justice,” he said in his interview with Oppressed Nation in 2001.
Geelani openly expressed and gave the credit of India’s occupation to Sheikh Abdullah. He said it was not a momentary lapse on his part, but a clearly formulated agenda. He engineered the state’s forceful accession to India. He also clearly said that his son, Farooq Abdullah was the one who approved Maqbool Bhatt’s execution. Geelani had since 1962 faced many imprisonment, occupations, incarcerations, assassination attempts, and all kinds of torture for his pro-Pakistan role; but of course, as Nelson Mandela remarked, “Fear of prison is a tremendous hindrance to a liberation struggle.” It never faltered his strength or altered his principles.
His residency was made a subjail where he was kept in detention. This took a toll on his health. He suffered many complications due to improper medical care and eventually breathed his last in Srinagar on 1st September, 2021 at the age of 92. His passing brought to the end an era of valor, courage, and resistance against intimidation and subjugation. Geelani had wished to be buried among the martyrs of Kashmir in Mazar-e-Shohda, Srinagar. Indian forces had violated his wish to be buried there, only to have him buried immediately near his residency in Haiderpura. Where Sheikh Abdullah’s grave lies patrolled by the Indian military, Geelani’s brought an air of intimidation throughout the country that his wish had to be traded with such injustice by the Indian regime.
His pledge to achieve the independent status of Kashmir and the liberation of Kashmir from this forcible inclusion lies in our hearts, the essence of his principles present within us much like the sun that never sets. As the pages of history continue to be written, it is essential to remember the lives that have been impacted by the conflict. In the spirit of humanity and reconciliation, we as one nation appeal that all freedom fighters of Kashmir be reunited with their families. Permission be granted to Geelani’s family to retrieve his body from the custody and the earthly remains, according to his wish, should be laid to rest at the Martyrs’ Graveyard in Srinagar. Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Masarat Alam, Asiya Andrabi, Abdul Hamid Fayaz, Naaim Khan, and other political prisoners should be reunited with their families. The pain and suffering endured by these individuals and their loved ones should not be overlooked. India should prevent the scheme of altering the demographic balance by settling non-Kashmiris in Kashmir and thus changing the proportion of the Muslim population from majority to minority.
Just as Geelani’s struggle is rooted in the quest for dignity and self-determination, the people of Kashmir deserve their promised plebiscite and they should be allowed to decide their own future.
(Nabiha Abrar is B.B.S, 3rd Year, Bolan Medical College)
[It is not necessary for KMS to agree with the views expressed by writer in the article]