[News] Kashmir - Interview With Syed Ali Shah Geelani

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 28 11:54:25 EDT 2010

Interview With Syed Ali Shah Geelani

By Yoginder Sikand

28 October, 2010

Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e Islami of 
Jammu and Kashmir is a veteran Kashmiri 
politician. Presently, he heads the Tehrik-e 
Hurriyat-e Jammu Kashmir. He talks about the 
Kashmir conflict and its possible solution in 
this exclusive interview with Yoginder Sikand

Q: In your writings, and in those of other 
similar Islamist ideologues, the Kashmir conflict 
is often described as a war between Islam and 
‘disbelief’. Do you really think it is so? Is it 
not a political struggle or a nationalist struggle, actually?

A: The Kashmir dispute is a fall-out of the 
Partition of India. The Muslim-majority parts of 
British India became Pakistan, and the 
Hindu-majority regions became the Dominion of 
India. There were, at that time, some 575 
princely states in India under indirect British 
rule. Lord Mountbatten gave them the choice of 
joining either India or Pakistan, and instructed 
that their choice must be guided by the religious 
composition of their populace as well as by the 
borders they might share with either India or Pakistan, as the case might be.

On this basis, almost all the princely states 
opted for either India or Pakistan. There were, 
however, three exceptions to this. Hyderabad, a 
Hindu-majority state with a Muslim ruler, opted 
for independence, but India argued against this 
on the grounds that the state had a Hindu 
majority, and so ordered the Police Action to 
incorporate the state into the Indian Dominion. 
Junagadh, another Hindu-majority state with a 
Muslim ruler, opted for Pakistan, but India 
over-ruled this decision, again on account of the 
state’s Hindu majority, and annexed it. If India 
had adopted the same principle in the case of 
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state with a 
Hindu ruler, there would have been no conflict 
over Kashmir. After all, more than 85% of the 
population of the state at that time were 
Muslims; the major rivers in the state flowed 
into Pakistan; the state shared a border of over 
750 kilometres with Pakistan; the only motorable 
road connecting Kashmir with the outside world 
throughout the year passed from Srinagar to 
Rawalpindi; and the majority of the people of the 
state had cultural and historical ties with the people of Pakistan.

However, over-ruling these factors, which would 
have made Jammu and Kashmir a natural part of 
Pakistan, in October 1947 the Indian Army entered 
the state in the guise of flushing out the Pathan 
tribesmen, who had crossed into Kashmir in the 
wake of large-scale killings of Muslims in 
Rajouri and Poonch. Using this incursion an 
excuse, Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, 
engineered the intrusion of Indian forces. The 
British scholar Alistair Lamb says that the 
so-called Instrument of Accession that Haris 
Singh is said to have signed to join India 
temporarily was itself fraudulent. He claims that 
Hari Singh did not even sign it.

Thereafter, India itself took the issue of 
Kashmir to the United Nations. The UN passed some 
eighteen resolutions related to Kashmir, 
recognizing the status of the state as disputed 
and calling for a resolution of the conflict 
based on the will of the people of the state, 
which the first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal 
Nehru, himself also publicly promised. Now, all 
that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are saying 
is that India should live up to this promise that 
it made of holding a plebiscite in accordance 
with the UN resolutions. So, this is the basic issue.

Q: So, aren’t you here saying that the conflict 
is essentially political, and not specifically religious?

A: For a Muslim, no action is permissible which 
is against Islam. How can we say that the 
sacrifices that the Muslims of Kashmir make, the 
tortures that they suffer, and the martyrdom that 
they meet have nothing to do with Islam, and that 
they won’t be rewarded by God for this? In this 
sense, it is a religious issue also. Islam 
teaches that Muslims must follow the guidance of 
Islam in every action of theirs­not just in 
prayers but also in matters such as war and 
peace, trade, international relations and so on, 
because Islam is a complete way of life. If a 
true Muslim participates in any struggle, it is 
for the sake of Islam. So, how can you say that 
the Kashmir conflict has nothing to do with religion?

Q: This might be true in theory, but surely many 
Kashmiris who are involved in the movement for 
separation from India might be motivated by other 
factors, including for economic and political 
reasons, or also due to a commitment to Kashmiri 
nationalism, as distinct from Islam?

A: I agree that there may be various reasons why 
different people may participate in the movement. 
Yes, there can be many who do not adopt the 
guidance of Islam in this regard. They might 
champion secular democracy and irreligiousness. 
Their sacrifices might be motivated by 
nationalism or ethnicity, rather than Islam. They 
might have no problem with the system of 
governance in India, their opposition to Indian 
rule being simply because of the brutalities of 
Indian occupation. Of course, one cannot say that 
all Kashmiri Muslims think alike. But I am 
speaking from the point of view of a practicing 
Muslim, who accepts Islam as a complete way of 
life. For such self-conscious Kashmiri Muslims, 
it is undoubtedly a religious issue and their 
sacrifices are for the sake of the faith.

Q: Maulana Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e 
Islami, who is a major source of inspiration for 
you, opposed the creation of Pakistan. So, then, 
why is that that you have consistently been 
advocating Kashmir’s union with Pakistan?

A: You are wrong here. Maulana Maududi was not 
opposed to the creation of Pakistan and to the 
‘two nation’ theory. What he was opposed to was 
the practice of the Muslim League leaders, who 
were leading the movement for Pakistan. He told 
them that while they talked of the ‘two-nation’ 
theory and Islam, they were not serious about 
establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan. They 
were not preparing the activists of the League 
for an Islamic state. Maulana Maududi wanted 
Pakistan to be an Islamic state, and this was the 
grounds for his opposition to the Muslim League. 
But he, like the League, supported the 
‘two-nation’ theory. In fact, the League did not 
have any theoretical justification for its ‘two 
nation’ theory until this was provided by Maulana 
Maududi through his copious writings.

Q: But do you really see Indian Hindus and 
Muslims as two separate ‘nations’? After all, they share so much in common.

A: They are totally separate nations. There is no 
doubt at all about this. Muslims believe in just 
one God, but Hindus believe in crores of gods.

Q: But the Prophet Muhammad, in his treaty with 
the Jews and other non-Muslims of Medina, 
described the denizens of Medina as members of 
one nation. The leader of the Jamiat ul-Ulema-i 
Hind and a leading Deobandi scholar, Maulana 
Husain Ahmad Madani, even wrote a book to argue 
against the League’s ‘two nation’ theory, 
stressing a composite Indian nationalism that 
embraced all the people of India. So, how can the 
Muslims and Hindus of one country be considered 
separate ‘nations’, even by Islamic standards?

A: Islam lays down that in an Islamic system 
(nizam) all non-Muslims, including even atheists, 
will get equality, justice, security of life and 
property and freedom of faith. Maulana Madani’s 
arguments were critiqued by Maulana Maududi.

Q: In your prison memoirs, Rudad-e Qafas, you 
write that ‘It is as difficult for a Muslim to 
live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish 
to live in a desert’. But how can this be so? 
After all, the pioneers of Islam in India and in 
Kashmir itself, mainly Sufi saints, lived and 
preached in a society in which Muslims were a very small minority.

A: I meant to say this in a particular sense. 
Islam, as I said, is a complete way of life. No 
other path is acceptable to God. So, in the 
absence of an Islamic polity, it is difficult for 
Muslims to lead their lives entirely in 
accordance with the rules of Islam, which apply 
to social affairs as much as they do to personal 
affairs. For instance, Muslims in Kashmir under 
Indian rule live in a system where alcohol, 
interest and immorality are rife, so how can we 
lead our lives completely in accordance with 
Islam? Of course, Muslim minorities are Muslims, 
too, but their duty must be to work to establish 
an Islamic dispensation in the lands where they 
live so that they can lead their lives fully in 
accordance with Islam and its laws. Missionary 
work to spread Islam is as much of a duty as is 
praying and giving alms to the poor. Now, as for 
your question about those Sufis who lived and 
worked in societies where Muslims were in a 
minority­they may have been pious people, but we 
take as our only model the Prophet Muhammad.

Q: But, surely, no one is forced to drink 
alcohol, deal in interest or act immorally in Kashmir?

A: True, but these things automatically spread 
since they are allowed by the present un-Islamic 
system. So that is why you see the degeneration 
of our culture and values happening on such a large scale.

Q: You mentioned about preaching Islam being a 
principal duty of all Muslims. But, surely, for 
this you need a climate of peace, not of active hostility, as in Kashmir today?

A: Absolutely. I agree with you entirely. No one 
can deny this. We need to have good relations 
with people of other communities. Only then can 
we communicate the message of Islam to them. But 
if one side continues to oppress the other and 
heap injustices and says that this should be 
considered as ‘peace’, how can it be accepted? 
If, for instance, Narendra Modi says that what 
happened with the Muslims in Gujarat represents 
peace, how can anyone accept it? If India 
stations lakhs of troops in Kashmir and says this 
is for establishing peace, how can it be, because 
these troops themselves are disturbing the peace?

Q: You, following other Islamist ideologues, have 
consistently been advocating what you call an 
‘Islamic state’, seeing this as an indispensable 
Islamic duty. To your mind, which is the best 
functioning ‘Islamic state’ in the world today?

A: The world-wide Muslim community ummah is today 
in such a sorry state that there is no Islamic 
state anywhere in the real sense. Saudi Arabia is 
described as an Islamic state, but it is run by a 
monarchy, and monarchy has no sanction in Islam. 
If Muslim countries, including those that claim 
to be ‘Islamic’, were truly Islamic states they 
would never have been enslaved to America, as is 
the case today. They all support America’s 
policies and adopt its dictates. They are 
completely, on all accounts, dependent on 
America. They cannot even defend themselves. They 
have to rely on America and Europe to do this. 
They keep their money in American banks. We say 
that they should use their wealth to empower 
themselves and get out of America’s clutches and 
convert themselves into genuine Islamic states.

Q: In the wake of the attacks of 11 September, 
2001, how do you see the impact of American 
pressure on Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, to 
change their position on Islamist movements?

A: The events of September 2001 have caused most 
Muslim states to change their policies and to toe 
America’s line even more closely. You can see 
this happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 
only Muslim country that refuses to cave under American pressure is Iran.

Q: And now America is seeking an excuse to attack Iran, is it not?

A: Yes. America is trying to stoke Shia-Sunni 
rivalries in order to undermine Iran. It is 
trying all other such weapons, dividing the 
Muslims on the basis of sect, nationality, race 
and ethnicity against each other so as to weaken 
them. And the leaders of most Muslim countries 
are now playing the role of agents of the USA, be 
it in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine or as 
is the case with the Saudi monarchs. See what’s 
happening in Waziristan, the Frontier Province 
and Baluchistan, in Pakistan. A climate is being 
deliberately created in those parts of Pakistan 
to justify American attacks and bombings in the name of flushing out militants.

Q: If Pakistan is now so pro-American, acting 
against its own people, and if it is not an 
authentic ‘Islamic state’, then why have you been 
advocating Kashmir’s union with it?

A: As I said earlier, the Muslim League claimed 
that Pakistan was won in the name of Islam, but 
it did not give its cadre the necessary training 
to establish an Islamic state there. Because of 
this, the influence of the Army and the country’s 
Westernised leadership, Pakistan failed to become 
an Islamic state. But it was meant to become such 
a state, which is something that we want. So, if 
the people of Jammu and Kashmir were given the 
right to decide between India and Pakistan, the 
majority, I think, would prefer the former.

I admit that there are weaknesses in Pakistan, 
but these can be addressed. India has a secular 
system, which we can under no condition accept. 
Because of the oppression that we have been 
suffering under Indian rule for the last sixty 
years, how can we opt for India? In just a few 
weeks, in late 1947, some five lakh Muslims were 
killed by Dogra forces and Hindu chauvinists in 
Jammu. In the last seventeen years, over one lakh 
Kashmiri Muslims, mainly innocent civilians, have 
been killed. So many localities have been burned 
down, women raped and men rendered missing. After 
such brutal experiences, only a blind person would opt in favour of India.

Q: Many Kashmiri Muslims would rather be 
independent than join India or Pakistan. Do you agree?

A: The UN resolutions provide for only two 
options: joining India or Pakistan, and if this 
rule is followed then the majority would, I 
think, opt for Pakistan. However, if the three 
parties to the dispute­Pakistan, India and the 
people of Jammu and Kashmir­come to a consensus 
on an independent Jammu and Kashmir, then, as I 
have repeatedly said, we will accept that formula also.

Q: In some of your writings you have argued 
against Kashmir being an independent state, even 
claiming that this is an Indian ‘ploy’. Can you elaborate?

A: This is true. It is an Indian ploy, because 
India does not want to see Pakistan strengthened, 
which it would be if Jammu and Kashmir joins 
Pakistan. The slogan of Azadi is aimed at 
weakening Pakistan. Independence would result in 
a territory that would have been a natural part 
of Pakistan being taken away from it. But, then, 
compared to staying with India, independence is a lesser evil.

Q: Many Kashmiris, seeing the current political 
and economic troubles in Pakistan, might say that 
they would prefer to be independent.

A: If we get independence, we will accept it.

Q: What if most people of Jammu and Kashmir wish 
to live in a secular or democratic set-up, and 
not a Taliban-style ‘Islamic’ state?

A: We don’t want to bring Taliban-type Islam, but 
the real Islam of the Quran and the Practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet.

Q: But the Taliban argued that their state was in 
accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah.

A: To claim something is different from acting on 
that claim. For instance, while Islam makes it a 
duty for every Muslim male and female to acquire 
education, as soon as the Taliban came to power 
they banned girls’ education. What they should 
have done, instead, was to set up separate 
schools for girls. So, like this, there are many 
issues on which we can differ. The Islamic state 
that we would like to establish in Jammu and 
Kashmir would be one based on the understanding 
that all of humanity are children of the same 
primal parents, Adam and Eve. They will all be 
treated equally and justly. There shall be no 
discrimination based on religion. After all, the 
Prophet once remarked that all creatures are of 
the family of God and that the best is he who 
treats members of God’s family­which obviously 
includes non-Muslims, too­in the best way.

Q: You advocate Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, 
but today minority nationalities in Pakistan, 
such as the Baluchis and the Sindhis, suffering 
under Punjabi domination, are struggling for 
independence. Might not the same thing happen to 
the Kashmiris if the state were to join Pakistan?

A: We want to join Pakistan, not be absorbed into 
it. We would have internal autonomy.

Q: But, surely, despite Pakistan’s claims, the 
part of Jammu and Kashmir under its control­‘Azad Kashmir’­lacks real autonomy?

A: Yes, Azad Kashmir cannot be said to be really 
autonomous since there, too, everything happens 
according to the wishes and directions of the 
Federal Government. But we would make sure that our autonomy
be written into the Constitution.

Q: Do you see any significant changes in 
Pakistan’s policies vis-à-vis Kashmir in recent 
years, perhaps under American pressure?

A: Yes, considerable changes can be noticed. 
Earlier, Pakistan used to insist on the right to 
self-determination for the people of Jammu and 
Kashmir. Musharraf was the first to change this, 
arguing for a solution outside that of the UN 
resolutions, an out-of-the-box solution. This 
constituted the first deviation in Pakistan’s 
Kashmir policy. Then, Musharraf began talking of 
seven zones in Jammu and Kashmir, soft borders 
and his four-point formula, which is nothing but 
a means to preserve the status quo.

Q: How do you respond to media allegations that 
the Kashmiri movement for self-determination is ‘anti-Hindu’?

A: How can our struggle be called ‘anti-Hindu’? 
It is a struggle for certain principles. In Hindu 
mythology, when the Kauravas and the Pandavas, 
cousins of each other, were arrayed against each 
other on the battlefield, Arjun turned to 
Krishanji Maharaj, and told him that he could not 
bear to fight his own brothers. Why, he asked 
him, was he asking him to fight them? He wanted 
to refuse to fight. But, then, Krishanji Maharaj 
said, ‘Arjun, this is a battle for certain 
principles. In this, do not consider the fact 
that those who are opposed to you are your 
relatives’. We Kashmiris, too, are engaging in 
such a battle for certain principles with the 
Indian Government, for occupying us against our 
will and for not acting on its promise to let us 
decide our own political future. It is not a war 
against Hindus or the people of India. It is not 
a communal conflict. In fact, there are many 
Indians who support our stand on the right to self-determination.

Q: Then why is it that the Indian media, and 
large sections of the Western media, too, present 
the movement as ‘Islamic extremism’ or ‘terrorism’?

A: The Indian media is bound to support India’s 
military occupation. How can you expect it to 
support our cause? I’ve seen so many massacres by 
the Indian Army here, but often the media 
describes them as ‘encounters’ with ‘militants’. 
You know how the agents of the Indian Army 
engineered the massacre of so many innocent Sikhs 
in Chhatisinghpora and falsely attributed this to 
‘militants’, in order to convey the misleading 
message to the then American President, Bill 
Clinton, at that time on a visit to India, that 
our struggle is a ‘communal’ one, and not a 
freedom movement. I can cite so many more such cases to prove this point.

Q: But, if that is so, why is it that you and 
people like you have not condemned killings by 
militants in the same way as you condemn similar crimes by the Indian Army?

A: Wherever such incidents have happened, we have 
condemned them, irrespective of the religion of 
the victims. The Quran clearly states that enmity 
with a people should not make one stray from the 
path of justice, because justice is closer to piety.

Q: If Jammu and Kashmir becomes independent, how 
do you envisage its relations with India and Pakistan?

A: It should have brotherly relations with both countries.

Q: Some radical groups active in Kashmir argue 
that all Hindus are ‘enemies’ of Islam. What do you feel?

A: No, this is erroneous. There should be no 
enmity or discrimination with anyone simply 
because of his religion, caste, race, colour or 
country. We are permitted to fight only those 
individuals who fight us or place hurdles in the 
path of our faith. With others we should have 
good relations, and that applies to our relations 
with ordinary Hindus as well. So, when some 
people argue that as a community the Hindus are 
‘enemies of Islam’, it is wrong. It is not an Islamic way of thinking.

Q: Certain militant groups active in Kashmir say 
that they will not stop their war with India 
until India itself is ‘absorbed’ into Pakistan 
and the Pakistani flag flies atop Delhi’s Red Fort. What is your opinion?

A: This is emotional talk and should not be paid 
attention to. We don’t agree with this argument. 
Our fight with India is only to the extent that 
India has taken away our right to 
self-determination. Once we win that right we 
will have no problem with India. In fact, if by 
exercising this right the majority of the people 
of Jammu and Kashmir say that they want to be 
with India, we will also accept that.

Q: But don’t you feel certain radical groups 
active in Kashmir who preach hatred against 
Hindus and call for India’s ‘absorption’ into 
Pakistan are actually defaming the religion whose cause they claim to champion?

A: Islam has been given a bad name more by 
Muslims themselves and less by Hindus. Islam has 
been damaged less by open ‘disbelief’ (kufr) than 
by hidden hypocrisy (munafiqat), by people who 
claim to be Muslims but are really not so in practice.

Q: So, would you agree that these groups who 
condemn all Hindus as ‘enemies’ are actually misinterpreting Islam?

A: We cannot take responsibility for what others 
say. You can ask these people yourself.

Q: What message do you have for the people of India?

A: I will only say that India should honour its 
promise to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to let 
them decide their own political future. Honouring 
one’s promise is a major principle of the Hindu 
religion. Raja Dasharath, honouring the promise 
he made to his wife Kaikeyi, gave his throne to 
his son Bharat and ordered Ram Chandraji to go 
into the forest in exile. Simply in order to keep 
his promise he sent his elder son to fourteen 
years in the forest and gave the throne to Bharat 
instead. Bharat was a man of character, and so he 
placed Ram Chandraji’s sandals on the throne, 
believing that his elder brother deserved to 
rule. So, the Hindu religion teaches that one 
should live up to one’s promises, and if India 
were to act on the advice of the Hindu scriptures 
in this regard on the issue of Kashmir the conflict will easily be solved.

Copyright 2010 @: New Age Islam Foundation


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