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Underreported Facts of ‘Azaadi’ Meeting at New Delhi

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

26 October, 2010

Even as the chorus to book the Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and writer Arundhati Roy on sedition charges, for their statements made at the meeting held in New Delhi on October, 21, 2010, is gaining currency, there are some underreported facts about the meeting that needs to be put into circulation so that the popularly held views of it do not become a gospel of truth.

One of the speakers, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, who was present at the meeting, titled ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, gives a blow by blow account of the meeting that has not been reported in the so the called mainstream Indian media.

Sengupta writes that Syed Ali Shah Geelani said, “He wants to see a strong and resurgent India. I heard him say this. And was this reported by anyone? NO. Was it reported that he was cheered when he said this? NO”

Was it reported, when Geelani said; “he personally stands guarantee for the safety and security of all minorities, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Christians and others in a future free Kashmir. He implored the Pandits to return to Kashmir, and said; they are an integral part of Kashmiri society.” NO

Was it reported, “when he spoke of the need for ensuring that a free Kashmir was a just Kashmir, and that justice meant that the freedom, safety and security of all minorities, of their property, their places of worship, and their freedom of conscience be given the utmost importance.” NO

Was it reported, “when Geelani reminded the assembled people that throughout these turbulent months, the people of Kashmir have continued to be hospitable to Hindu pilgrims, have set up ‘Langars’ (Kitchens) for them, and have cared for them when they have fallen sick, despite being at the receiving end of the violence of the Indian state. NO

Was it reported that Geelani said, “the people of India and Kashmir are tied together by the bonds of insaaniyat (humanity), when he quoted Gandhi, or spoke of the necessity of conducting a non-violent struggle that was devoid of hatred, or even when he said that he wished to see India rise as a great power in the world, but as a power that felt no need to oppress others.” NO

Was it reported that Geelani said; “he is not against dialogue, provided that the five point formula put forward by him is being considered. 1. Acceptance of the disputed nature of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, 2. repeal of AFSPA and other black laws, 3. release of political detenues and prisoners, 4. withdrawal of the disproportionate presence of the armed forces and 5. punishment to those guilty of taking life in the past few months. He requested the government of India to think ‘outside’ the framework of the Indian Constitution and accept them as the basis of the dialogue? NO

“Geelani said, all that they are asking for is the right to self determination, promised by India, before the United Nations, to be freely enacted through a plebiscite, in conditions of peace and liberty, without the presence of armed force, for the inhabitants of every part of the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir – regardless of whether the results of that plebiscite are in favour of India, Pakistan or an independent, united, Jammu and Kashmir that can live in peace with all its neighbors in South Asia,” writes Sengupta.

Reporting about writer Arundhati Roy, Sengupta says, ‘I recall that the author, while endorsing the demand of ‘Azaadi’ for Kashmir, reminded the audience of the need for the people of Kashmir not to be selective about justice and injustice, that they must find methods to forge webs of solidarity with all the suffering and oppressed peoples of India. She unambiguously spoke about the fact that she considered the situation of Kashmiri Pandits to be a tragedy, writes Sengupta.

These statements were wholeheartedly and sincerely applauded, by the majority of people present in the auditorium, regardless of whether or not they were Kashmiri, write Sengupta.

He adds, these statements should have been the big news considering the fact for its gentleness, for its consideration, for its moderation, even for its liberality and open heartedness. However, this has not happened and what is reported is in public domain

Writing about the reportedly charged atmosphere of the meeting, Sengupta says; “the atmosphere, for the several hours that I was present, was absolutely electric. The vast majority of the audience was warm and appreciative of all the speakers. They were patient and respectful and despite grave provocation from a section that repeatedly tried to interrupt the meeting and heckle speakers, and on one occasion even tried to throw an object at the dais, did not stoop to be provoked by these pathetic attempts at disruption of a peaceful gathering.”

“No provocative, sectarian or hateful slogans were raised by the majority of the people present. The only provocative posturing that I witnessed was undertaken by a section of the crowd, who was not stopped from having their say, but was requested simply not to disrupt the proceedings.”

“When their behavior crossed the limits of public decency, they were escorted out of the premises by representatives of the Delhi Police. The Delhi Police, to their credit, did not act against the majority of the audience, simply because the majority of the audience conducted themselves in a completely civil and democratic manner.”

Sengupta writes, “the meeting was a historic opportunity for the Indian mainstream media to report and take cognizance of the fact that there is a section of Indian public opinion that is actually in favor of ‘Azaadi’ in Kashmir.”

He qualifies his statement saying, “I am not suggesting that this section constitutes an overwhelming majority at present (that might change) but, that it does exist, and that it presents, cogent, precise arguments, that cannot be dismissed.”

Shuddhabrata Sengupta is a media practitioner, filmmaker and writer with the Raqs Media Collective. He can be reached at [email protected]. His "Azadi: The Only Way – Report from a Turbulent Few Hours in Delhi" can be accessed at; http://kafila.org/2010/10/22/azadi-the-only-way-report-from-a-turbulent-few-hours-in-delhi/

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at [email protected]