An open letter to Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Dear Geelani Sahab, feel free to leave anytime you like.
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Dear Geelani Sahab,
Namaskar. I hope the medical care, paid for by the Indian state, is keeping you well. I see you have finally got a passport to travel to Saudi Arabia, even though you have said quite categorically that you are not "by birth Indian. It is a compulsion". I am not surprised to hear you say that. I have met you twice in the past at your Haiderpora home. On both occasions, you have made your displeasure at having to stay on in India known.
Your displeasure that democratic India allows you to stay on in your sprawling, three-storey home, with its beautiful enclosed garden where you conduct interviews with media from all over the world, spewing hatred against the "atrocities" on Kashmiris by the "imperialist" Indian state, and "the Delhi Public Schools and Army Schools that are making up young minds and Indianising them".
Your displeasure that generous India has given you the best medical attention, paying all your medical bills, for surgeries to install a pacemaker, to remove a kidney, your gall bladder, to correct your cataract, to even overhaul your teeth.
Your displeasure that free India allows you to invoke hatred against it in the name of Allah.
Your displeasure that fair India enabled you to be elected MLA thrice, and to contest the 1980 parliamentary elections which you lost. As a Kashmiri Pandit, large parts of whose family was forced to flee the city whose air you still breathe, it was not easy for me to meet you. As a Kashmiri Pandit, I found it difficult to reconcile the wizened old man in front of me, calling me beti, with your words, and telling me why it was important that my homeland - as much as yours, Geelani Sahab - should not be part of India. As a Kashmiri Pandit, I found it almost impossible not to gag when a beautiful boy of ten was presented to you in the summer of 2010, at the height of the stone-pelting agitation, by his proud father, his shirt taken off his pale skeletal body, and 12 wounds from pellets shot at him by the CRPF shown to you. Instead of recoiling in horror at this child soldier of your misguided war, you kissed the boy on both cheeks, congratulated the father on his courage, and sent them off to probably die in your name.
You spent much of the over two hours on two separate occasions complaining about how the Indian state doesn't allow you to move freely around Srinagar, how it doesn't allow you to attend Friday prayers - a sentiment echoed to me by your much younger compatriot Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. You complained about Indian news channels and their twisted agenda of hate, pointing to the sympathetic coverage of Voice of America and BBC Hindi. You said you were denied a visa to travel to Pakistan.
Dear Geelani Sahab, the truth is, you know there is no other country - certainly not your beloved Pakistan - which would allow you to have the lifestyle you do despite the violence you encourage and the hatred you preach. The Pakistan of today is nothing like the Lahore of 1940-44 when you studied the Quran and theology there.
Yes, you too have suffered for your beliefs. As you told me in the India Today interview of 2010, you have spent 15 years in various prisons in the country, survived 12 assassination attempts. But your views are at fundamental odds with the ethos of the Indian state. As you told me: "India is suffering from the arrogance of power. But we believe that there is a superpower, the Almightly Allah, and he will break this arrogance. The Almighty has also given willpower to poor people to counter India's expansionism. It's a big country but it wants more. Not just for Kashmir to remain in its control but for Bangladesh to be part of it, Pakistan to be in its control."