We have to understand that despite being signatory to UN resolutions on Kashmir, since 1947 India has been denying Kashmiris their right to self-determination.
Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday hit out at political parties, accusing them of gaining political mileage on his application for passport to appease their vote banks.
In an interview with Greater Kashmir, Geelani spoke at length on the row over his application for passport to meet his ailing daughter in Saudi Arabia. Excerpts:
GK: Have you completed formalities for obtaining passport?
Geelani: For past several years, I have been yearning to meet my ailing daughter in Saudi Arabia and also perform Hajj. I have submitted online form for passport. But due to my continuous house arrest, rather illegal confinement, I am not able to visit the Passport Office to complete the biometrics procedure.
GK: There have been mixed reactions to your application for passport. Many political parties have strongly opposed issuance of passport to you while some regional parties including ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have extended support to you. How do you view these developments?
Geelani: All pro-India parties whether it is BJP, PDP, Congress or National Conference are playing politics over my passport. Those who oppose issuance of passport to me want to appease their vote bank, and those who support it want to gain sympathy among Kashmiris who support ongoing freedom movement. I want to maintain that all pro-India parties have always been at forefront of using different tactics including elections and development card to dilute the aspirations of Kashmiris for right to self-determination.
GK: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently said he will consider your passport application and maintained that government is not averse to approving it? What is your take on it?
Geelani: If people at the helm of affairs in the Government of India issue passport to me, that will not be any favour to me. Obtaining travel documents is a basic right and its denial tantamount to human rights violation. Hundreds of divided families living on both sides of Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir cannot meet as most of them have been denied travel documents. We have to understand that despite being signatory to UN resolutions on Kashmir, since 1947 India has been denying Kashmiris their right to self-determination. There are hundreds of Kashmiris whose passport applications have been rejected on frivolous grounds. This is one of the forms of suppression.
GK: In the passport form, the applicant has to mention his nationality. Will you mention yourself as Indian citizen to complete the formalities?
Geelani: You have to understand the situation Kashmiris are living in. With presence of eight lakhs troopers, Kashmir has one of the highest military concentrations in the world. India has closed all our traditional routes to neighboring countries and taken over our natural resources. This has made us fully dependent on it for power, water, roads and jobs. We are living in forcible control of India. In this situation mentioning my nationality as Indian in the passport form will be a sheer compulsion, rather mere formality. But it will not deter my stand on Kashmir. I have been MLA for over a decade and even then I religiously pursued the cause of Kashmiris for the right to self-determination.
GK: When was the first passport issued to you?
Geelani: I have many times applied for the passport in past few years but was denied it. I was first issued passport in 1981 and performed Hajj and visited United States. My passport was impounded when I was invited to attend a conference in London. In 2005, I was issued passport to go for Hajj pilgrimage.
In 2007, I was issued passport with validity of a year to allow me to go for treatment in United States. However, I could not go abroad as the US denied visa to me.