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Rediff.com  » News » Calm in the Valley is the silence of the graves: Geelani

Calm in the Valley is the silence of the graves: Geelani

Last updated on: September 19, 2011 09:18 IST

Calm in the Valley is the silence of the graves: Geelani

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Sahim Salim

Amid encouraging support and welcome from political observers, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah announced the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission, on the lines of South Africa after the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves in the Valley.

Slamming Abdullah's move, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in a press conference, had said that the people of Kashmir could not expect justice from a system which was the one which committed gross violation of human rights in the first place.

In this exclusive interview with rediff.com, Geelani outlines why he rejected Abdullah's move. Geelani terms the relative calm in the valley this year as 'the silence of the graves', saying that the sentiments of the Kashmiri people are being suppressed with force.

He warns the state that these sentiments will burst sooner or later and the youth will defy the force and take to the streets once again if the atrocities committed against them don't stop.

You have rejected the truth and reconciliation mission initiated by Omar Abdullah. Can you outline your reasons for doing so? You have rejected the Padgaonkar Committee, and now this.

Till date, several commissions have been constituted by the J&K government. But the Kashmiri people have not been told what the outcome of these commissions have been; who the culprits are, who have been arrested, who have been punished, what the situation is.

Many missions that have been constituted in the last 64 years; the results of which remain unknown to the Kashmiri people. That is why the people of Kashmir don't have any trust in any of the missions lunched by the government. Moreover, whatever commission is  constituted here, the investigators are those who are the perpetrators of the crime; how can one expect results?

How can a mission investigate human rights violations when members of that very commission had committed the crimes? People involved in rape cases, murder cases,  custodial killings, burning down of people's houses, mass disappearances and all other heinous crimes are never punished.

To top it all, they themselves head committees to investigate these crimes, so how can we expect justice or truth from that?

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Image: Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardliner faction of Kashmir's Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'We have asked the United Nations to intervene'

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Considering the discovery of 2,730 bodies dumped in unmarked graves in four different districts of the state, what form of commission or investigation do you expect here?

We have appealed to the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon in particular, to intervene and investigate.

We have appealed to them on humanity grounds to constitute a fact finding commission so that they can come here and see the kind of human rights violations that are being carried out by Indian security forces: The way our women are being raped, our colonies are being destroyed, our youngsters are being murdered, the disappearance of 10,000 people in the past 20 years after their arrests.

We have appealed to the UN to take all these crimes into consideration and send a committee to investigate, purely on humanitarian grounds. Till an independent international body does not investigate, we, the innocent people of Kashmir will not get justice.

Is your call for a United Nations intervention more a call for more western attention to the valley?

 See, on humanitarian grounds, I say even the residents of India should pay attention to the gross violation of human rights that are taking place in Kashmir.

Yes, when the UN comes here, the world will come to know about the atrocities carried out by the police and army.

But as you said, western attention should come to the valley. They have to take notice of the suppression of Kashmiri men and women.

In India, people in New Delhi and others might be thinking there is peace here. But, I was kept under house arrest for 141 days in 2010, 121 youngsters were murdered, 3000 were injured and under the Public Safety Act, our children are being arrested.

During the  month of Ramzan, I was not allowed to even attend Jumma prayers. I am under house arrest even now, for the past so many days, I have not been allowed to attend Jumma prayers. There is police at my gate.

My mobile phone was disconnected. How can we expect a state-appointed commission to give us justice? We need international independent bodies for any kind of justice.

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Image: Protesters throw stones and pieces of bricks at an police vehicle in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'Jammu and Kashmir is not the integral part of India or Pakistan'

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In addition to the unmarked graves discovered by the police investigation wing of State Human Rights Commission in north Kashmir, are there others that you are aware of?

 The 2,700-plus unmarked graves that were discovered were just in four districts. If you conduct an investigation in the entire state, you will find many unmarked graves in a lot of places. No investigations have taken place, so they have not come been exposed.

What do you think of the Padgaonkar committee? You have personally interacted with Radha Kumar on earlier occasions, what do you think she can contribute in the committee?

See, the members of this committee have met with various fractions and people from the valley. But the problem is that they won't be able to come out with any solution.

The solution is very simple  Jammu and Kashmir is not the integral part of India or Pakistan. We just want the government of India to fulfill the promises they made to the people of Kashmir.

Till this is done, no interlocutors, no committee can make any progress. These are just tactics of the government to stall for time. Let me tell you, dialogues have been going on since March, 1952, but no progress has been made.

In your opinion, what can the state do today to instill confidence in the people of Kashmir? Have they lost the trust of Kashmiris to be able to do anything at all?

The first thing they need to do is give us the right to self-determination for resolution of Kashmir issue. After that they should start withdrawing the army from Kashmir. They  should release political prisoners and people arrested unjustly. Draconian laws like AFSPA, Public Safety Act etc should be repealed.

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Image: Policemen check Kashmiris at a barricade setup during a curfew in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'We condemn cowardly acts such as the Delhi HC blast'

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How have Kashmiris responded to the arrest of four young boys from Kishtwar in the Delhi high court blast? The National Investigation Agency is now saying that the Kishtwar connection is the most obvious connection to the solution of the case?

Yes, some young men have been arrested, but no concrete evidence has come to the fore. The NIA themselves have not declared officially that they have solved the blast.

We believe that innocent blood should not be spilled. If any of our boys are responsible in spilling blood, we won't abject to their arrest. We condemn cowardly acts like this; whether they are ones committed by Muslim or Hindu extremists.

There has been a relative calm in the state compared to last year's mass protests/stone pelting, etc. Is Kashmir finally seeing peace?

It is the silence of the graves. So many of us have been killed, so many threatened, so many arrested. People are being kept under house arrest, leaders are not allowed to meet their supporters under any circumstances. Police, using force and arrests, are stopping these protests.

This is not real peace, but the silence of the graves. The lava that the police are suppressing in the people of Kashmir is boiling over; it will burst. Don't mistake the forced silence of the people as their acceptance of the military rule imposed by India.

When the lava will burst, you will see that the people do not agree with the forced rule of India.

What are the aspirations of the youth of Kashmir today?

The first and foremost aspiration of the Kashmiri youth is to be rid of forced occupation. They can't stand their brothers and sisters being killed. You fulfill that aspiration, you pave a way for dialogue.

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Image: A man, who was injured by the bomb blast outside Delhi high court, is carried on a stretcher to a hospital

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'Omar may be the leader, but the command is run by security forces'

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How relevant is the Hurriyat Conference to them? How relevant are your views among the Kashmiri youth today?

Till we represent this aspiration of the Kashmiri youth, we will remain relevant. The youth of Kahsmir understand what my legacy stands for. They started adopting our views long ago.

Today, more and more youth are thinking like we do. The government understands this. That is why I am kept under house arrest. The few times I have managed to give a slip to the security forces, people have come to listen to me in huge numbers.

Omar Abdullah has initiated some good steps to bring peace in Kashmir. What are your views of his leadership?

See, officially he is the chairman of unified command, but it is being run by the army, Border Security Force, CRPF, Navy and the police. He has no say to what these people decide. He can't raise his voice against the atrocities being committed under their command, inspite of being its chairman.

You must have followed the fake encounter case in which three of our children were killed in 2010, but no action was taken against those responsible.

Also, no first information report was registered against the Central Reserve Police Force or the Army or the police for the murder of 121 youth in 2010.

Omar Abdullah is the new leader, but with his arrival only the face of the perpetrators of crime has changed, the crime itself continues.

Union Minister for Renewable and New Energy and National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah has made a demand for Income Tax probe against you. Your comments?

(laughs) He is under severe political pressure and thes kind of tactics was expected. He has alleged that I have swindled Rs 3 crore in the name of youths killed in last year's summer unrest in the Valley and rebuilding the gutted Chrar-e-Sharief shrine.

Can you please ask Mr Abdullah to produce one individual or one group associated with the Chrar-e-Sharif or the 121 young men killed last year, who can say that I have swindled money from them?

Please also ask him how I could have carried out this scam when last year I was kept under house arrest for 121 days and there was curfew in the state for another 100?

I was not allowed to meet the people of Kashmir, much less swindle money from them! You should never take his statements seriously, he speaks without knowledge of any facts.

Image: File photo of Jammu and Kashmir Chief minister Omar Abdullah
Photographs: Reuters
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