Geelani down but not out

Since last year, journalists – locals as well as from mainland India – have tried their luck to get an interview of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani as the state has made it impossible for the journalists to meet him. Not everyone is lucky to get into the heavily monitored residence-cum-office of ailing senior Hurriyat leader.

On the pleasant morning of August 10, 2017 (Thursday), I was one of the few lucky journalists who was able to sneak through the heavy contingent of state police and paramilitary personnel, after frisking and making excuses, to get into residence-cum-office of the old-guard of “resistance” leader in Kashmir.

The purpose of meeting Geelani was an interview which I had been assigned by the office.

Once inside the military fortress, I was told to wait as doctors were examining him (Geelani). His health condition has considerably deteriorated since last many months due to the continuous house detention and old-age factor.

Since 2010, he has been under continuous house detention. He was released in November 2013. However, he was again put under house detention after he addressed some well attended public rallies.

After few minutes, I was instructed (by the lone office boy-cum-chai maker) to go to the room-cum office of Geelani, where dentist Dr.  Manzoor Ahmed was examining him.

While entering the room, I greeted him saying: “How is your health now?” Instantly, he responded saying: “Not good. Please sit,” directing me to the opposite black sofa.

Dr. Manzoor, by this time was almost finished with his regular instruction to Geelani of do’s and don’t’s. We both sat opposite to him (Geelani).

All the medicines and machinery has been made available in that one room – the room is not only a sub-jail from him but also sub-hospital as well.

“Why you came to see me after a long time?” he asked me while coughing heavily.

I was meeting him after almost two years.

“I tried to see you many times before also; but they did not allow me to get in. Today, I somehow managed to sneak in making excuses,” I replied.

“All this is done only because of our own deeds. Had we been fair in our doings (dealing with New Delhi) we would have never seen worse time,” Geelani said.

Being one of the staunch opponents of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Geelani said: “We (people of Kashmir) lost everything in 1938 when he (Sheikh) converted Muslim Conference into National Conference.”

Accusing Sheikh of siding with Jawaharlal Nehru, Geelani said: “Ours was a natural part of Pakistan had Sheikh not betrayed us that time.”

He was all the time coughing heavily and his words were not audible. It clearly shows that the isolation because of continuous house detention has taken a heavy toll on his health.

Giving few more instructions to Geelani, Dr. Manzoor left saying: “Call me anytime, if your gums again irritate you.”

Islam being one of the main motivational forces behind his conviction, even in such frail health conditions, Geelani started the lecture about Islamic history, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and the Quran.

All the while, he talked in the feeble voice not a single soul disturbed us.

The Tehreek-e-Hurriyat office has turned into a dead rubber. All the hustle-bustle has vanished in the thin air. India has been successful in isolating Geelani.

But the conviction and never die-attitude is keeping Geelani going even at time when he alone is leading the party.

As a journalist, I failed in getting the desired interview for which I had visited him because he politely refused to be interviewed. However, the time spent in listening him and his yearning for a free State of Jammu Kashmir makes one realize the importance of him being there, even if he is alone and isolated.

New Delhi may be successful in isolating him from his party workers in general and from the Kashmiris in particular but the idea and conviction he commands over the people neither can be caged nor isolated. As the saying goes, “You can cage an idea but cannot kill it.”

Daanish Bin Nabi

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