Prof S.A.R. Geelani, who was accused with Afzal Guru and Shaukat Hussain in the Dec 13, 2001, Parliament attack case, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2003. He tells Panini Anand why he’s shocked by the Afzal hanging.
Do you think that by hanging Afzal, the government has made him a hero for Kashmir?
The way the government has dealt with him; he is the hero for everyone in Kashmir. He is our martyr, our hero.
Two hangings in three months. Some people put Kasab and Afzal on the same level.
How can anybody do this? What kind of perverted mind equates the two?
What do you think about the timing of his hanging?
I feel it was nothing but a political decision. Look at the way in which the Supreme Court worded its judgement. The sentence the court used is: “to satisfy the collective conscience of the society…” This is a political language, not a legal language. It’s clear that law doesn’t want him to be punished; there are political considerations which want this man to be hanged.
When you say, it was a political decision, are you hinting at the hardline stance of the ruling Congress party?
There has always been a Hindutva lobby within the Congress party. It’s nothing new. Look at the recent Gujarat elections. Ahmed Patel was nowhere to be seen. Wasn’t it the Congress party that opened the gates of the Babri Masjid for worship by the Hindus? For the last couple of years, innocent Muslim youth across the country have been jailed. Had they not facilitated, the Babri Masjid would have not fallen. The Congress is misusing the UAPA and AFSPA. There are many shades of Congress party which come out from time to time as and when required for political benefits. I don’t see any difference between Congress and BJP. They are two sides of the same coin.
What about the state leadership? The day Afzal was hanged, many Kashmiri leaders were in Delhi. Don’t you think that the state’s political leaders and the government were taken into confidence before hanging Afzal?
The Jammu & Kashmir government is like a puppet. Remember the day when Kasab was hanged? The secrecy was maintained. Go and see what Omar Abdullah tweeted then. He said that if this can be done in secrecy, others could be done as well. He was hinting at Afzal Guru. There is no reason not to believe that he was not aware about it or rather, knew about it.
In 2006, Farooq Abdullah warned of serious consequences in the valley if Afzal was to be hanged. My feeling is, Omar Abdullah was taken into confidence on the matter. Why didn’t Omar fly a chopper for the family of Afzal, so that they could meet him for one last time? Seeing the unrest in the valley, Omar is singing a different tune now. I believe other mainstream parties were also taken into confidence on the Afzal issue.
You were one of the co-accused in this case. How do you see this punishment?
How do you think the media has handled the issue?
Hitler had one Goebbels; today governments have many Goebbels in the form of the electronic and print media. They go on lying to the people till they are convinced that what they hear is the truth. They say that we should have respect for the courts, but do they have? The Supreme Court has declared the confession by Afzal illegal but they are showing it repeatedly even after his death. I mean, they are like vultures who want their pound of flesh from a dead man. Even the so-called security and other experts—I mean what kind of society do they want?
What is happening in Kashmir now?
In Kashmir, the message from the government is hard and harsh. The youth will get a message that there is no option; you can be heard only if you have a gun in your hand. No institution is going to help you. It’s only possible when you snatch your rights by using power. And it will bring disaster, not only to Kashmir but to the entire country. There was a different generation when Maqbool Bhat was hanged in 1984. Now, the Kashmiri youth is more informed, aware and literate. They are not like us; they are listening to the bullet fire and blasts since they were in the wombs, day and night. They are born under the shadow of the guns.
Will it affect the peace process and confidence building in Kashmir?
I pity the politicians for their narrow vision. They can’t see beyond the 2014 elections. They couldn’t see the disaster the hanging would bring to the people of Kashmir and this country. Today, it has been confirmed that Kashmir will never get justice from the Indian system.
While Afzal was innocent, you were acquitted. who are the perpetrators of the Parliament attack? Who are the culprits?
That is the question I have been raising since my release. If you see Afzal’s statement in the court, he has pointed a finger at the agencies. Everyone is talking about national security but nobody has bothered to look into those areas, role of agencies. I am shocked to see this. I was the first person to demand a white paper on this issue; the governments have never come up with it.
After Home Ministry’s offer to handover Afzal’s belongings to the family, will the family collect his belongings from Tihar and offer prayers at his grave?
The family’s demand is that Afzal’s body should be handed to them—to enable them to conduct the last rites. Prayers can be offered from anywhere; sitting in Kashmir or any other place. As far as his belongings are concerned, they belong not only to his family but to Kashmir. They are a treasure now.
A shorter, edited version appears in print
Apropos your interview with S.A.R. Geelani (‘Hitler had one Goebbels...’), if I remember it right, Afzal Guru, on his arrest, accepted his involvement in the Parliament attack plot on television. How far he was involved and what should have been his punishment is another issue. But no one can claim he’s innocent. As for Mr Geelani, he seems to have a Musharraf complex—a your-terrorist-is-our-freedom-fighter policy. Also, the man accuses the Supreme Court of being politically motivated, but wasn’t he himself declared innocent by the same court?
Abbas Rumani, Kuwait
Beautifully set up by Outlook. Forget asking the obvious questions, you then allow the professor to peddle the usual Muslim explanation for terror acts, the same one which pins the blame for perpetrating the acts on the victims themselves.
There are some unfortunate Indians in Pakistani prisons as well. What if the supreme court and the government of that country decide to start satisfying the “collective conscience” of the Pakistanis?
Mansoor Murtuza, Lucknow
Why are most hindu commenters ill-informed and often malicious?
All major religions besides one have seen reforms over the last 200 years. Hindooism saw Sati pratha abolished, caste system made irrelevant, untouchability banned. Christianity saw major reforms and control of catholic church was cut down and ancient practices done away with. Slavery was abolished, witchhunting banned. However this one desert religion still lives in the medivial ages and follows practices that were relevant centuries ago and not today. Equality for women, freedom of speech, personal choice for dressing/ eating, respect for other religions, accepting modern science, monogamy, intercast marriages, birth control are all alien concepts for this religion. 60 nations that follow this religion haven't given us one invention, or a noble prize. They still in middle ages. Educated moderates within this religion need to have the courage and question outdated practices. Otherwise the world has a very dark future and will all turn into Afpak.
This traitor should thank his stars that he escaped the gallows and roams a free man today. Otherwise, the circumstantial evidence in his case is only slightly less damning than in Afzal Guru's case.
HITLER & NAZIS indulged in ETHNIC CLEANSING exactly the way KAHMIRI MUSLIMS CLEANSED Kashmir of Hindus and Geelani is part of that Kashmiri Muslim. It is a shame that NO INDIAN can buy land/ house in Kashmir to work & live while KAHMIRI MUSLIMS can buy land/ house anywhere else in India to work & live. -------------------------- India should either abolish Article 370 and allow any Indian to buy land/house in Kashmir to work & live (as all PAKIS are allowed in Pak Occupied Kashmir) OR stop Kashmiris from buying land/ house anyother part of India to work & live.
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