By Sarwar Kashani and Ruwa Shah
Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Tuesday said he was not in “absolute control” of the situation in the Kashmir Valley and blamed “pro-Indian forces” for the bloodshed that has left over 30 people dead in violent street protests.
In an interview with IANS at his heavily-barricaded Srinagar residence, Geelani said the new generation of Kashmiris was politically more aware as well as sensitive. They are facing “brutal forces fearlessly”, he said.
“We cannot say we are in absolute control of the situation,” said the 87-year-old chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference -- an amalgam of Kashmiri separatist groups.
He, however, quickly added that the young Kashmiris participating in the widespread violent protests were “influenced” by the Hurriyat ideology of “resistance against India”.
“They have learnt it from us. We have influenced them. They follow our shutdown calls. But they are more determined,” Geelani told IANS.
The ailing separatist leader has been under house arrest off and on since 2010 and suffers from multiple ailments.
He has been a strong votary of Jammu and Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, saying the Kashmir dispute was an unresolved portion of two-nation theory that divided India and Pakistan in 1947.
Rocked by widespread protests, the Kashmir Valley has been on the edge following the weekend killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani, 22, who had emerged as the new face of Kashmir's militancy, using Facebook and other social media to rally supporters and reach out to other youths.
Asked if the separatist political leadership had failed Kashmir's new generation in giving them alternatives to the gun to claim democratic and political rights, Geelani blamed “pro-Indian forces and the Indian government for creating Burhan Wanis”.
“India shows no respect for humanity, fundamental rights of Kashmiris.”
He mocked at the Jammu and Kashmir government for urging the Hurriyat to restore peace to Kashmir.
“The government has not allowed democratic forces to flourish. I am under house arrest since 2010. We are not allowed to meet people. India has unleashed a reign of terror.”
The former Jama’at-e-Islami chief alleged that police and paramilitary troopers were "shooting to kill protesters at will”.
He asked the protesters to keep “resisting and venting their anger” but appealed to them not to forget “moral and human values cherished by peace loving people of Kashmir”.
“We should follow our values. We should not harm Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. They are part of our culture and brotherhood. People visiting us as tourists from across the world should also not be harmed.”
Geelani said Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, would be at peace only if New Delhi and Islamabad permanently solved the dispute over the divided region as per the wishes of the people.
“You talk about people voting for pro-India parties. What is wrong in holding a referendum to know if people want to stay with India, Pakistan or become independent?”
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ruwa Shah at email@example.com)