A convention on “Azaadi—The Only Way” was organized by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) at LTG Auditorium, Mandi House, New Delhi on October 21, 2010. It was among others participated and addressed by Booker Prize winner and writer Arundhati Roy, Maoist ideologue and Telangana poet Varavara Rao, Assamese human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, and Tehreek Hurriyet chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Like the topic, the entire convention became controversial. What the speakers expressed also raised a controversy. Also present on the occasion was “Roots in Kashmir” activist Aditya Raj Kaul. He along with others activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the BJP, and Kashmiri Pandits protested to the speakers’ views and shouted slogans. Most of the protesters were forced out of the auditorium and detained by the cops. However, later on they all were released.
Interestingly, while the BJP Senior BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley castigated the Centre for the speech made by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, saying freedom of speech too has constitutional limits, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said: “India is a democracy and what some people did with Geelani Sahib at the New Delhi seminar on Thursday (October 21, 2010) goes against the democratic traditions of the country where freedom of speech, no matter how unpalatable, is a right which needs to be respected and protected.”
The convention was covered by both print and electronic media. Following are a few reports appearing in different English newspapers.
The Hindu: Geelani Calls for Boycott of Interlocutors
By Vinay Kumar
The Hindu A Kashmiri youth demonstrates stone pelting during a Convention on 'Kashmir - Azaadi: the only way' in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: S. Subramanium
Even as the group of three recently appointed interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir prepares to visit the State soon for beginning a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people, hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Thursday gave a call for their boycott.
Describing the exercise as a ploy of the government to gain time, Mr. Geelani said there was “no sincerity” towards finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem.
“I am announcing from the platform of this convention on Kashmir that nobody should meet the interlocutors when they visit the State. Do they not know what people in Kashmir want? What will these interlocutors do in their one-year-long mandate? They want to meet students, shopkeepers and everyone else but what do they want to know?”
The Hurriyat leader was speaking at “Convention on Kashmir – Azadi: The only Way,” organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) here. The five-hour-long convention also saw Maoist ideologue and Telangana poet, Varavara Rao, and Booker Prize winner and writer Arundhati Roy express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir in their fight for justice and right to self-determination.
Frequent interruptions, sloganeering and noisy protests by a section of the audience, including some Kashmiri Pandits, who were objecting to the presence of the separatist leader on the dais, marred the proceedings. The protesters, shouting slogans like Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram, created ruckus at the convention. They were finally taken out by police. A large number of Kashmiri youth and their supporters countered them with slogans like “We want freedom.”
Mr. Geelani's boycott call came amidst indications that the interlocutors were planning their maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir on October 23. The interlocutors — eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, noted academician Radha Kumar and Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari — are likely to visit the State for a week. The group, which met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, is likely to meet BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on Friday.
The veteran Hurriyat leader said dialogue had been held for 150 times since March 23, 1952 but without yielding any result. “It has been a failure. We are for dialogue but then India should give up its stand of repeating that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral of India,” he said.
Referring to his five-point formula announced in August, the separatist leader said it had included demands like recognising that Kashmir was an international problem, release of detenus and pulling out of armed forces but added that it was meant only to start the process towards building a conducive atmosphere for holding dialogue and was not a solution in itself.
“The core issue of Kashmir has to be addressed through tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The Hurriyat leader said the right to self-determination was the “fundamental right” of the people of Kashmir, who included all those living in the Jammu and Ladakh regions — be they Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus. “No amount of suppression and deployment of armed forces can crush the sentiment of Azadi and right to self-determination of Kashmiri people.”
He said it was a “good sign” that people in other parts of the country were raising their voice in support of Kashmiri people and their struggle.
Ms. Roy called for forging a united platform of people who were involved in their own struggles for justice in different regions of the country.
“You have to look for tactical, political and intellectual alliances and think about justice, otherwise you will be like fish swimming in a tank with strong walls and ultimately getting tired,” she said.
Ms. Roy said she did not want young people in Kashmir to be let down even by their own leaders. She said the idea of justice linked struggles of people in Nagaland, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa to the people of Kashmir.
Indian Express: Will allow liquor sale in ‘free’ Kashmir---Geelani
By Maneesh Chhibber
New Delhi, October 21 Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Thursday announced that when Kashmir got “azadi”, strict prohibition would be enforced for members of the majority community — Muslims — “but if minorities feel they want to have liquor, they would be allowed it as their right”.
“The system of justice in an independent Jammu and Kashmir would be such that liquor would be prohibited for the Muslim majority, but if minorities feel they want to have liquor they would be allowed it as their right,” he said, adding that only those whose religion it permits would be allowed to drink.
Speaking here at a conference, “Azaadi — The Only Way”, organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners, Geelani said ‘independent’ Kashmir would be a secular state so that “if a member of a majority Muslim community accidentally breaks a liquor bottle of a minority member, the system will pay the penalty for the damage. Or else, the offender will have to pay penalty for the damage”.
Significantly, after the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir, one of the first things that the militants did was to announce a ban on sale and consumption of liquor. While the ban has not been revoked so far, this is the first time a separatist leader has spoken in favour of liquor sale in the Valley.
Earlier, the conference got off to a tumultuous start when some people, including activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the BJP, and Kashmiri Pandits, staged a protest against the anti-India diatribe by the speakers, who included pro-Naxal activists.
Geelani asked Kashmiris to boycott the interlocutors appointed by the Centre. “Kashmiris should follow our protest programme and not get swayed by those who tell them not to protest,” he said.
Times of India: Geelani Heckled at Delhi Meet
By Sameer Arshad
New Delhi: Hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's presence at a seminar in New Delhi provoked noisy protests, forcing the cops to physically remove dozens of agitating activists from the venue.
The seminar, organized by Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), started amid tight security with scores of cops manning the venue.
The trouble started after Assamese human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, who was one of the speakers at the event, demanded right to self-determination for J&K and deplored alleged human rights abuses in the state. His comments provoked the activists, who rushed towards the podium shouting slogans and almost came to blows with the volunteers, who made a human shield around the octogenarian separatist leader. The sloganeering continued for around 15 minutes before the cops removed the activists from the venue. They tore hoardings, pamphlets and photographs depicting four-month street protests and alleged rights violations in the Valley.
Roots in Kashmir activist Aditya Raj Kaul, who was among the protesters, maintained that the hardline leader can't be allowed to preach secession and that he had no locus standi to speak on behalf of Kashmiris. ''What azadi and for whom?'' he asked and demanded inclusion of Kashmiri Pandits in any negotiations on settling the issue.
Asian Age: Geelani Episode Shameful---Omar
While the separatists are furious at Syed Ali Shah Geelani being heckled at a seminar in New Delhi by a group of protesters including Kashmiri Pandits, CM Omar Abdullah has expressed his dismay.
“India is a democracy and what some people did with Geelani Sahib at the New Delhi seminar on Thursday goes against the democratic traditions of the country where freedom of speech, no matter how unpalatable, is a right which needs to be respected and protected,” the chief minister said here.
He added that the strength of our democracy is in its values of tolerance and to allow a fearless expression of dissent only strengthens the democratic fabric of the country.
The CM further said, “Our democracy is a matured democracy and is capable of absorbing political dissent and diverse view points and so we should provide every individual an opportunity to air his or her opinion in a democratic manner.”
He said the right to debate, disagree and reject anybody’s views is also an inherent part of democracy but the rebuttal must be decent and the response and disagreement must be civil and best expressed in a democratic fashion.
CNN-IBN: BJP Slams Centre for Geelani's Pro-Azadi Speech
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday slammed the Centre for allowing Kashmiri separatists to make anti-India speeches in New Delhi. Senior BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley castigated the Centre for the speech made by Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying freedom of speech too has constitutional limits.
"Yesterday (Thursday, Oct 21, 2010) the country was shocked when separatists met under the nose of Central Government. All reports indicate that all speakers who participated in the conference gave indications that India cannot be one and should be broken up. Can democracy co exist with right of sedition? Obviously it cannot. Free speech is constitutional right, with constitutionally prescribed procedures. Such exercises like those by Geelani yesterday comes under penal law," said Jaitley.
At a seminar on Thursday evening in New Delhi, Geelani had called for Kashmir's 'azadi'. A group of Kashmiri pandits who were present at the seminar had created a ruckus, shouting slogans and even climbing on the stage to prevent Geelani from speaking.
The hardline Hurriyat Conference leader was the convenor at the seminar organised by the committee to campaign for release of political prisoners titled 'Convention on Kashmir-Azadi: The only way'. Geelani, Kashmiri separatists as well as Naxal and Khalistan sympathisers came together under one platform to demand independence for Kashmir at the seminar.