Minutes of the seminar on ‘Azadi: The Only Way’

(Shuddhabrata Sengupta has written eloquently his account of the day-long seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’. The seminar was organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. Given below are CRPP’s minutes of the seminar. You can also see, on YouTube, two short videos showing the ruckus that some Kashmiri Pandits created before Syed Ali Shah Geelani was to speak (1, 2). Also on YouTube, in two parts (1, 2), is Arundhati Roy’s speech, for which some want her booked for sedition. Those on Facebook can also see most of SAS Geelani’s speech (1, 2, 3). A small part of Geelani’s speech is on Youtube, here. Those hurling abuses at Roy and Geelani would do well to read this text, see these videos, and engage with these ideas intellectually, instead of asking for individuals to be jailed and persecuted.)

2PM – 8PM, 21 OCTOBER 2010



A    R E P O R T

The convention on Kashmir that was held on the 21 October 2010 proved to be historic in every aspect given the topicality of the issue. As can be noticed from the title of the convention itself we at the CRPP thought it necessary to pose the question directly, as the people of Kashmir, in their persistent struggle for their right to self-determination braving the repressive apparatus of the Indian State had dared even in their death.

When people are being killed in hundreds; maimed, tortured, raped and put behind bars in thousands; it is of utmost significance as a responsible body which gives paramount importance to right to life, liberty and equality, right to freedom of speech and movement and last but not the least the fundamental right to raise one’s voice and resist all forms of oppression and exploitation, it was of necessity to stand up for the fundamental right of the people of Jammu &Kashmir—their inalienable right to determine their own future, their Right to Self Determination. What better way can one make oneself democratic than to be in solidarity with the genuine urge of a people in their relentless struggle for their inalienable Right to Self-Determination. It is this conviction that has given us the strength to organize this convention. And we are confident that this convention would go a long way in the hearts and minds of all freedom loving people—who cherish the word justice—as a definite step in forging the solidarities of all who have been mistreated, discriminated, oppressed and exploited.

The following is a summary of the proceeding of the convention.

S A R Geelani, the Working President of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) conducted and initiated the proceedings of the Convention on Kashmir titled ‘Azadi: The Only Way’, at the LTG Auditorium, New Delhi on 21 October 2010 by welcoming the chief guest, the speakers and the audience on behalf of CRPP. He recalled that in just the past four months, more than 100 people -mostly teenagers- have been martyred in Kashmir. He recounted how a small boy was brutally beaten to death by the CRPF, which was just one example of the untold atrocities and oppression committed by the occupation forces of India. Thousands have been injured, many have been blinded, raped, maimed and yet many are languishing in prison.

He took specific note of the shameful role of the Indian media for its motivated reportage conflating fiction with facts, turning truth upside down. The Indian establishment had successfully misled the people of the country for the last 63 years when it came to the hard facts about Kashmir. In this context CRPP felt that the voice of the Kashmiris needs to come out. The exercise of extreme forms of repression by the government has not just been over the past four months but for decades. He also hoped that the Kashmiri people’s demand for azadi, which has been attacked from many quarters as vague and undefined, will be clarified today, and what the Kashmiris mean when they call for azadi will be spelt out. He wondered about the total lack of political will of the Indian Parliament in taking a decision on the future of Kashmir as per the wishes of the Kashmiris. Nehru once held that the Indian Parliament had no right to take any decision on the future of Kashmir. Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris, and they will take decision. This was why the Kashmir dispute was referred to the UN. But the same Parliament passed a resolution in 1994 without any opposition which says that Kashmir is an integral part of India. This is the nature of the hypocrisy of the Indian ruling classes when it comes to Kashmir. He pointed out that when we talk of Kashmir, we do not mean the Valley of Kashmir alone, but the entire Jammu and Kashmir as in 1947. It includes Muzzaffarabad, Mirpur, Jammu, and Ladakh. When we say India oppresses us, we talk of the Indian state, and not its people. But we have to say this to the Indian people that when our people are killed, it is done in the name of the people of India. Indian people have to make it known that they are not a part of this oppression, and they stand opposed to it.

He then invited the chief guest Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, along with other speakers of the day to the dais. Two minutes of silence in honour of the martyrs of Kashmir was observed.

Najeeb Mubarki, Assistant Editor with the Economic Times was the first speaker, who began his address by stating that though he is not a part of any political platform, he along with all Kashmiris aspire for a political resolution of the issue. To him, the reason that youngsters have come out in protests is primarily a decades old rage and anger which has sharpened since the onset of the armed uprising for Azadi. And until there is a political resolution, the crisis will not come to an end. The Indian media has misrepresented and sought to delegitimise the popular movement of Kashmir, by claiming that the protests are only by the Muslims demanding an independent theocratic state. Though the majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Muslim community, an overwhelming majority feels that it is a struggle for their legitimate and inalienable political rights. Another way of delegitimising it is to say that the struggle has no clarity and is fragmented. There might be a small section who asks for different things, but there is a near-total rejection of the status-quo. Moreover, the recent protests have opened up a space, with the result that there is a better awareness within the Indian public opinion that there is something more to the Kashmiri movement than meets the eye. The political establishment of India must understand that the youth of Kashmir are not asking for jobs, economic packages, etc. but a political resolution. This has always been covered up by Indian media, along with the fact that the Indian state works fundamentally as a police, military state in Kashmir which resorts to instilling fear and ‘discipline’ among the people to govern. The state will continue to do this, along with the means of cooptation. One of the ways is by holding elections. The basic economic insecurity is preyed upon and money power is used during elections. But the decades-old crisis in Kashmir persists and will keep manifesting itself, as long as there is an acceptable solution, which is nothing but azadi. What does azadi mean? It means the rejection of the status quo, reflected by the slogan Go India Go Back. He appealed to all those who believe in democracy then to stand up and declare that what is going on in Kashmir cannot be accepted. One cannot accept what is going on in the name of preserving democracy. He asked Indians to come forward and assert that the acts with impunity of disappearance, killings, rape, maiming and torture of the security forces in Kashmir to preserve ‘order’ and forceful occupation of Kashmir should “Not be in their name”. He welcomed the convention as a much-needed attempt to convey the reality of Kashmir and the aspirations of its people to the wider Indian public.

Sujato Bhadra, prominent human rights activist from Bengal and Vice President of CRPP pointed out that none of the promises made to the people of Kashmir has been met so far by the Indian state. Right to self-determination is a fundamental right. India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which uphold that every community has the right to determine their own future. But in Kashmir, the same Indian State is violating this right with impunity. Every Kashmiri is seen as a suspect as a Pakistani, militant and therefore can be killed. This perception of Indian state must be contested. In India the majoritarian viewpoint holds Kashmir to be a part of India. This has been done by posting an army. In a democracy each one has a right to hold an opinion and exercise ones democratic choice even if that is not agreeable to some. The Indian democracy however violently suppresses any form of democratic dissent that challenges the status quo. Since an injustice against one is an injustice against everyone, when a Kashmiri is being killed or raped we all must unite to decry it and protest. Sujato further noted that the modern coercive state is fascist in nature and has to be defeated ideologically as well. Only then can there be real freedom.

Varavara Rao, revolutionary poet, started his speech by asking what kind of a secular democratic country India claims itself to be, where one do not want to hear. Kashmir was taken to the UN Security Council by the Indian ruling classes themselves. Even Gandhi declared that if people wanted to stay separately they could. While fighting for regaining their lost independence, the Kashmiris are also fighting along with the people of Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc. who have also been struggling against imperialist occupation. Forceful occupation of a people can never work. The Indian state has repeatedly used military force against the people. Army was sent to Telangana in 1948 and remained there for 8 years in the name of police action against communists, whereby thousands of people were killed. Their ‘crime’ was that they refused to be a part of India. Much like British colonial rule, the rule from Delhi was and is still being imposed through force in Kashmir and Telangana. He implored the audience to critically reflect on the reasons for our silence as to why the army is being deployed in Kashmir and the North-East.

Rao also refuted the claim that majority of Indians do not support Kashmir’s Azadi. Though the marginalized sections of Indian people are supporting the Kashmiri people’s struggle for liberation, their voices do not reach mainstream politics and the corporate media. He assured that in almost all the regions of India wherever people are fighting against the oppression of the Indian state, they are in support of Kashmir’s independence. The media will not show this. The Naxalite movement extended support to movements of Kashmir and the North-East for independence in its manifesto in 1970s. The CPI (Maoist) now upholds the right of the oppressed nationalities for self determination, including that of the Kashmiris. He reminded the gathering that a Bharat Bandh was called in six states by the party in support of the Kashmir movement. He also assured the people of Kashmir that all the oppressed peoples struggling against the oppressive rule of Delhi are in support of their struggle. He said that all those who are resisting fascism and imperialism are also in support of Kashmir’s azadi, just as they are in solidarity with the fighting people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Praising the syncretic Sufi traditions of Kashmir which are dear to him even as a Marxist, Rao asked those who have been in support of Vietnam, Iraq, Palestine, why they were reluctant to support Kashmir’s demand for azadi. Pledging continued support for the struggle for azadi, he said that oppressive Indian State and its military machine through its brutalities have been perpetuating the tyranny of American imperialism and the MNCs. Though the constitution says we the people, it has proven to be hollow for the last 63 years for the vast sections of the people of the subcontinent. Hence we need to stand united to reclaim the real sovereignty of the people.

Dr. N. Venuh, Secretary General of the Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) while reminiscing the sufferings of the Nagas at the hands of the brutal repressive Indian State asserted that through their historical experience in struggle for a free Nagalim the Nagas know better the brutality of the military force of Indian state pitted against the Kashmiris let alone the vices of the draconian acts used against the people of Kashmir while waging a heroic struggle against Indian colonialism. Venuh declared that the Nagas were never a part of India, and they wanted an independent homeland—Nagalim. And the Nagas have been in talks with the Indian Government for the last 13 years. More than 76 rounds of talks have happened but the Indian State is yet to move an inch on many of its commitments. On the contrary it is killing and keeping in illegal custody many of its important leaders to just prevail over the good will of the Nagas. He asked, can anyone deny the rights of the people? Can anybody be arrested and killed during ceasefire? But this is precisely what the dictatorial Indian government is doing in practice. The time has come when we all have to rise together and resist India, since its rulers have no honesty or sincerity in conceding to people’s democratic aspirations. The thirteen year long ceasefire between the Nagas and the government of India has yielded no solution. The Indian rulers come from Oxford, Cambridge etc. but fail to respect the demands of the people of India and Kashmir and other parts of the region. Do they know the history of the people, their struggles? He further noted that unless the attitude of the leaders of India changes, there will be no peace in the subcontinent. The people cannot be deprived of their inalienable rights. Every oppressed nationality has the right to self-determination. He concluded by appealing to all the oppressed people of South Asia to come together and fight against the Indian state.

Har Charanjit Singh, President of Dal Khalsa opened his speech by stating that they stand for the azad Sikh state and that they are fighting for it. He expressed solidarity with the movement in Kashmir, appreciating and acknowledging the leadership of the Kashmir resistance. He mentioned that a mass leader like Syed Ali Shah Geelani has emerged in South Asia after ages. Sikhs are raising their voices against the atrocities in Kashmir. The Indian rulers who were never ready to listen to the people are now talking of all parties’ delegations, throwing crumbs like economic packages and employment, etc. to quell the people’s struggle for azadi. He cautioned the audience to be vigilant, because when the people have awakened against their oppression and demand their just rights, the rulers try to pacify them with some token promises. Sweet talks of confidence-building and dialogue are repeatedly pronounced, without acknowledging their inalienable rights. When rights of the people are not acknowledged, they turn to the demand for azadi. He warned the Indian government that there will never be peace until it acknowledges the nationality’s right to self determination. Today, India is shining for a few, but look at its record in health, education, economy, which is pathetic. Moreover, there is no justice for the marginalised sections. Afzal Guru was given death sentence merely to satisfy the so-called ‘collective conscience’ of the society. The Babri Masjid judgment is another mockery of justice, where the faith of the majority alone was satisfied. The Sikhs, Nagas, Kashmiris and others are not going to bow to the Indian state. We want to tell the oppressive Indian State that acknowledge our right to self determination and stop the killings. We will not leave the fight for freedom. History of liberty is the history of resistance. He further pointed out that the Sikhs have been resisting since 1947, and their fight for azadi still continues.

Har Charanjit Singh also expressed his respect for the Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent times. He also reminded the oppressive Indian State’s divide and rule policy; of pitting some people against those who are fighting. He said that we are aware of these people as well. When such leaders are propped up, they needed to be resisted. Narrating their own experience, he said that when the movement in Punjab was going on, the Hindu brothers unfortunately did not speak up. In Kashmir, this lesson from history should be kept in mind, and requested that the Kashmiri leadership should be like elder brothers to the Sikh movement. He appealed to minorities in Kashmir to fight alongside the majority to struggle against the oppression.

The message sent to the conference by the President of CRPP Gursharan Singh, renowned theatre artist, who could not attend due to ill health, was read out by his daughter. Saluting the people of the meeting, he stated that though he was not physically present, he fully supported the ongoing movement of the Kashmiri people for azadi. Noting that all of us were going through difficult times when the rulers in Delhi drunk with power are totally blind to the voices of the people, Gursharan Singh termed the prime minister who appears soft from outside as an enemy of the people. His every policy is against the oppressed people of the country. The rulers in Delhi are liars and traitors. Kashmir belongs to the Kashmiris. The Kashmiri people should have the right to decide their own future. Their aspiration cannot be killed or crushed by the military force of the Indian state.

He hailed the unity of the struggling masses, and expressed his conviction that such unity is bound to defeat the fascist rulers of India one day.

Malem Ningthouja from the Committee for Peace and Democracy, Manipur (CPDM) asked, to the great applause of the audience, what was the problem of the rulers if the people were demanding their basic right to self-determination and freedom. He stated that they have also fought many struggles in Manipur, facing baton-charges and bullets. There is no room for compromise in the name of dialogue. When justice and equality is ensured to all nationalities and peoples, then there would be friendly relations between various nationalities. Once this right is respected, we all can live as friendly neighbours. He asserted that the oppressed people and nationalities did not fight the British only to become slaves of the Indian rulers. There is something wrong happening in this country. Who is responsible for it? The ruling classes of India. In Kashmir, the Indian state is trying to change the historical process, but the tide of history cannot be turned back and Kashmir will win freedom one day. Kashmir is not an isolated phenomenon; there is also Naga region, Assam, etc. Same is true for Manipur as well. India is not a nation. This term nation has been coined by the ruling classes of India. The bogey of ‘terrorism’ is being used against the masses struggling for their freedom. However, this will not prevent freedom movements from taking place. Now the adivasis are also awakening in central and eastern India. We should also support the struggle for liberation of the Indian people from the Indian ruling classes. He also requested the Indian people not to fight the Kashmiri people, not to support the Indian ruling classes in their devious designs of divide and rule.

Kanwarpal Singh, General Secretary of Dal Khalsa stated that azadi is the fundamental right of all nations. He extended solidarity to Kashmiris and affirmed their right to self-determination, and pledged to stand with the Kashmiris in their fight. Indian state is suppressing a non-violent movement with violence. This, however, is not the first time. The Nagas, Manipuris, Maoists, everyone is at the receiving end of state repression. The media too does not portray the reality of India. But the Kashmiri leadership and the youth has unambiguously brought the reality of Kashmir and the demand for azadi before the whole world. Now after inflicting all forms of oppression, the Indian state is trying to deceive the people. The ruling classes of India are orchestrating atrocities through the army in Kashmir, but are faking ignorance and innocence when asked to explain their repressive acts. He expressed hope that the Kashmiri movement and its leadership will take the demand for azadi to its logical conclusion, and appealed for unity to resist the Indian state’s hegemony and oppression and fight for the right to self-determination of all the oppressed nationalities.

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, media critic, expressed his feeling of pride in this assembly of people to demonstrate human solidarity with the exceptional urgency that grips the valley of Kashmir. He noted that we are all called upon to adhere to the abstract conception of Indian citizenship, but that we stand against this. The crime in Kashmir is enacted upon all of us even if we are not Kashmiris. This is being done in our name. All of those who belong to India have to resist this and need to come alive to the responsibility that this should not be done in our name.  The right to self determination is a universal right. The free exercise of the will of the Kashmiri people cannot be held in abeyance in the name of the people of India. All the oppressed nationalities need to be able to exercise their will in a peaceful manner. He said that he is acutely aware of the humiliation Kashmiris face everyday. It is a continuous humiliation to be a Kashmiri student in Delhi. Shuddha expressed his heartfelt desire to be a friendly neighbour of Kashmir.

An interrogation of the role of the media today has become an absolutely urgent matter. Whatever little news, which is percolating out today in favour of the people’s struggle going on in Kashmir is because of the Kashmiri youth which has taken it upon themselves to bring out the news at a great risk. He recalled that when there were mass-scale massacres in Kashmir, the Indian media maintained a calculated silence. The continuing oppression has led to even the middle-aged women coming out into the streets of Kashmir and resist the state. Shuddha also spoke of the videos of humiliation of four Kashmiri men who were paraded naked in Sopore. What was the response of the Indian media to this, he asked. These disturbing images did not find much space in the Indian mainstream media. The Indian state denied the authenticity of these videos. The Indian media shamefully did not listen to the silence in Kashmir and on those videos. What were people in India doing when there was ‘silence’? He appealed to the Indian media to reflect and consider their role as responsible human beings and citizens of the country. Let there be a million debates on what does azadi mean. He concluded by asserting that liberation of Kashmir will be won not as a gift of the occupying power but as a fruit of the creativity and intelligence of its people.

G N Saibaba, Deputy Secretary, Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) reiterated that the right to self determination for oppressed nationalities including the Kashmiri, Nagas, Manipuri people, etc. is enshrined in RDF’s basic programme as an inalienable right. Today, when Kashmiri people come out in millions in the streets of Jammu and Kashmir, the response of the Indian state is to kill and maim the protestors. When they are asking by coming into streets in millions for the stopping of killings, more are being killed. The people of Kashmir are not merely asking for their human rights. The voice is loud and clear that they want India to go out. The demand of the people of North East too is the same. Most areas in India today are heavily militarized, including the central and eastern regions of India. We are living under a military rule imposed in the name of democracy. While millions of people are coming out in the streets of Kashmir demanding azadi, at the same time lakhs of Telangana people are also coming out demanding a separate state. The adivasis, dalits and other marginalized people in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bengal, etc. are revolting against the Indian state. We should understand that India is not a nation. It is a prison-house of nationalities. A unified Indian nation is the imagination of the ruling classes. Each region and the people have a notion of their own country. In 1930s the National Congress and the Communist Party of India used to uphold the nation’s right to self-determination. By 1940s these very parties conveniently shelved the right to self-determination. But 63 years after the transfer of power, the people have demonstrated that India cannot be a single nation. If there was decentralization of power, this situation would not have come. India could have been federal, but the ruling classes owned and kept the unbridled power to rule over the entire territory of colonial India by force. The demand for azadi is supported by the oppressed peoples everywhere. We should not fight in an isolated manner. It is a remarkable gesture of unity when today the people from different regions and nationalities have come together in Delhi. Last year, the Indian state declared war against the people of India. The oppressed people of the subcontinent are against the Indian state. They are also expressing their solidarity with the people of Kashmir. To break this unity, people from Haryana and Punjab drawn into security forces are being sent to oppress the people of Kashmir, Nagas and Mizos or used to crush the people’s movements in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Yet, the fighting people do not think that the Indian state is invincible. The bows and arrows in the hands of the adivasis are enough to fight the fascist armed forces of the Indian state, just like the stones in the hands of the Kashmiris. And what is at the core of these struggles? It is for democracy, freedom, equality, fraternity, justice. To fight against oppression and injustice is historically justified; it is the democratic right of the people. Solidarity with azadi for the Kashmiris and the people of North-East is the only way to win our democratic struggles in other parts of India.

Shiv Nandan, democratic rights activist from Jammu, noted in his speech that though so much violence and bloodshed has been continuously perpetrated by the Indian state in Kashmir, the people of India have been kept in the dark about it. Indians think that the Kashmiris are with Pakistan. Regrettably, the killing of youth in Jammu & Kashmir has not evoked protests from the people of India. Now the youth of Kashmir are forcing the rest of India to hear and feel for them. People are gradually realizing that the government in Delhi is only for the benefit of a few. This is an encouraging sign, which he hoped will bear fruit in the future when there will be more resounding unity among the people of Kashmir and India in their common struggle for democracy and justice.

Arundhati Roy, writer, began her speech by asking those who wanted to throw shoes to her to do so now. She said that about a week or ten days ago at a tribunal in Ranchi on Operation Green Hunt, a TV journalist asked her whether Kashmir was an integral part of India. Her reply was that it has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc. The government accuses the Naxalites of waging a protracted war against the state. But the truth is, it is the Indian state which has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people.

Arundhati narrated her experience of Kashmir during the days of the Amaranth land issue in 2008, Kashmir needs azadi from India as much as India needs azadi from Kashmir. By India needs Azadi what she meant was the people of India for whose liberation the freedom of the Kashmiri people was a must. Any of us who have visited Kashmir know how militarized it is. Every time there is an election, the government asks as to why a referendum is needed, since the people of Kashmir have voted, and they have voted for India. She further brought to the notice of the audience that a convention of this kind was historic in the capital city of this hollow superpower that is India. It is also important to know where one stands on this issue. The British colonial empire too once considered Indians to be unfit for self-rule. The same argument is being used today by the powers-that-be to deny azadi to Kashmir. It is the same Indian ruling class which once preached non-alignment, but is now bowing before US imperialism and the MNCs. We need to continue this exercise of debate, and at the same time be aware that we are up against a serious adversary. We must realize that the bows and arrows in the hands of the adivasis or stones of the Kashmiris alone are not enough. We need to make serious and meaningful alliances. There has to be an alliance between all the struggling people and what will connect them will be the idea of justice. We need to be aware of the fact that not every movement or slogan is for justice.

Arundhati wished that the people fighting for azadi in Kashmir will not be let down by their leaders. She urged that those who are fighting for a just society must align with all the struggles of the powerless and the oppressed. Kashmiri people have an experience of over 60 years of struggle, but cautioned against isolation from other oppressed people. She extended her support for the struggle for azadi, but also appealed for a debate on the meaning of azadi among the Kashmiris. She asked everyone in Kashmir to have a deep discussion on what they are fighting for. And it has to come from within the Kashmiris and not from the so-called critics of azadi as a divisive ploy of the enemy. On the question of Kashmiri pundits, she said that much of the stories of atrocities on pundits have been concocted to sow misunderstanding and distrust among people, though what happened to some of them is tragic and unfortunate. Justice is to be fought and upheld for everybody, whether a minority of religion, caste, or nationality. It is not enough to ask for justice if the next person does not have it. People in Kashmir have said that Kashmiri pundits are welcome back, and this is a commendable gesture.

Arundhati concluded by saluting the struggle of the young people, women, children who are out on the streets facing the brutal Indian army. The first great art which the Indian state has mastered is to wait and wait and hope that people’s energies will go down. Killing them is the next. It is up to the people of Kashmir to take their struggle further in solidarity with other people’s movements. At the same time, the people in Nagaland must reflect on themselves why is it that a Naga Battalion is sent to kill people in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. A direct confrontation with the state is not enough. It is necessary to know ones enemy and make alliances locally, as well as internationally.

Amit Bhattacharya, professor of history in Jadavpur University and Secretary General of CRPP, started his speech by narrating his personal experience of Kashmir when he went there 2007, when they were detained by the police without citing any reason. It was only because of the protests from the Kashmiri people that they were released, with the police having to deny that they were in fact detained! Further he pointed out that his experience was that of a land under military occupation. The entire region has been taken over by the army, with traumatic experiences for the people in a militarized zone, where one never knows when the next curfew will be imposed.

The Indian occupation of Kashmir had its genesis in Nehru’s policies, and in his vision of India. He articulated the big-nation chauvinism of the Indian ruling class. He wrote that in today’s world, small nationalities do not have an existence of their own. Nehru’s approach to the struggling nationalities was fascist, to say the least. Though the Indian state agreed that the future of the Kashmiris will be decided according to the UN principles, and the UN Security Council decided to take people’s mandate to democratically determine the future of Kashmir, this promise was never meant to be kept. Even today there is a UN office in Kashmir because it is a disputed area, but India does not recognise it as such, claiming that it is an integral part of India. However, history is not on the side of the Indian state. It is on the side of the people. As a basic democratic principle, people’s right to dignity and freedom should be respected. All the democratic and freedom-loving people should support the right of the people of Kashmir for azadi. A large section of the people of India supports azadi for Kashmir. The fight for azadi will certainly be victorious, and we all are with you in this fight, he said.

Thiagu, General Secretary, Tamil National Liberation Movement, who could not make it to the convention due to some domestic exigencies which he could not avoid, had send a note of solidarity titled My Name is Kashmir. In his note Thiagu pointed out: It is the birthright of the Kashmir nation to determine whether it is to remain part of India, or to join Pakistan, or to retrieve its old status. For as a nation it is entitled to the right to self-determination. Those who think it is well and good that Kashmir should be with India are of course free to go to the people of Kashmir and mobilize support. What sort of democracy is this to occupy and keep Kashmir by force of military strength and repressive laws? What became of those solemn assurances given in the Instrument of Accession, at the UN General Assembly, and by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru  in his speech at the Lal Chowk in Srinagar? Indianists seem to think that they can drown these historical facts by hysterically shouting like psychos that they would never ever lose Kashmir. Further All neutral observers agree that more than 95% of the people of Kashmir want freedom, nothing less than what they passionately call ‘azadi’. Neither the Indian government nor its left and right fans can deny the fact that a majority of Kashmiris demand independence. They are adamantly obstinate that it cannot be conceded even if the majority asks for it. If so, will not the justification adduced for India’s annexation of Sikkim apply to Kashmir? What did they say at that time? Sikkim had been a separate state ruled by the Chogyal dynasty. People fought against the monarchy for democratic rights. The Sikkim Congress won the Assembly elections. Making use of the fact that the ruling party was supportive of India, Sikkim was made an associate state of India in 1974, and a full-fledged state the next year itself. Let us assume that the people of Sikkim favored merger with India. If it is justified on the basis of that desire to merge Sikkim into India, is it not also justified to allow Kashmir to go separate on the basis of the same popular desire?  If the Government of India would never under any circumstances cede any Indian territory to anyone, how did it cede Katchatheevu of Tamil Nation to the Sinhalese Sri Lankan government without the consent of any one Tamil? How does S.M. Krishna, the External Affairs Minister even now assert that once given it is given forever and they would not ask for its return?The British rulers at one stage came forward to negotiate Indian independence with those concerned. They even appointed commissions to explore ways and means of transferring power. What if the Indians do towards Kashmir what the British did towards India? Will the heavens fall on their heads? Will the tongues of these diehards rot if they pronounce the word freedom?Let alone the basic objective, what should be done to meet the immediate demands and create a peaceful atmosphere conducive to talks? The Indian armed forces should be withdrawn. Hated draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Public Safety Act and the Disturbed Areas Act should be totally withdrawn. All those imprisoned in connection with the struggle should be released forthwith and cases withdrawn. Encounter killings should be stopped. Members of the armed forces having committed crimes against the people should be arrested and brought to justice.Without doing any of these, the Government of India is trying to apply Amruthanjan for cancer. Why? The Government of India knows well that its carrot is not going to be accepted even by the very last Kashmiri. Its offers – the eight point plan, the interlocutors and all that – have, I fear, an ulterior motive. It might say: We dispatched an all-party delegation, offered a compromise, but they refused to cooperate. The plan might be to show the Kashmiri people as violence-mongers, to create some untoward incidents through the Intelligence wing, to blame the leaders of the Kashmiri people for them, to unleash state- terrorist repression and drown the Kashmiri struggle for rights in blood. I suspect this might be the secret plan of the Government. And finally while concluding he reminisced: Mass campaigns and mass mobilization in support of the Kashmiri struggle everywhere would only serve to defeat India’s conspiracies. We viewed the Vietnamese struggle as our own. In the same way we should also view the Kashmiri struggle as our own. As we then raised the slogan: My name is Vietnam, your name is Vietnam, our name is Vietnam! (mera nam Vietnam, thera nam Vietnam, hamara nam Vietnam) now let us say: My name is Kashmir, your name is Kashmir, our name is Kashmir! (mera nam Kashmir, thera nam Kashmir, Hamara nam Kashmir).

Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hossain, Professor of Law at Kashmir University, suggested that an alternate name of the conference could have been ‘No Option but Self-Determination’, because it is an inalienable right of the Kashmiri people, and so it is for every national minority. He stated that people with different perceptions are united on the right to self-determination. Whether the people of Kashmir opt for India, independence or Pakistan through a plebiscite is acceptable, provided it is decided by the people. One argument against the right to self-determination put forward by the apologists of Indian occupation is that so many Indian soldiers have died in Kashmir. But does the US have a right over Afghanistan because so many of its soldiers are killed there? We are also told that so much of investment has been made in Kashmir by India. The British made huge investments in Hong Kong and India. Does that mean they are entitled to these countries for eternity? All these are false arguments made to deny the right to self-determination. We demand self-determination because it is a universally accepted democratic principle. The Kashmiris did not ask Indian rulers to take Kashmir to the UN for a resolution. If India can host UN Observers’ Missions for Kashmir, Hossain asked, what makes it shy away from acknowledging that it is an international dispute? What prevents it from conducting a plebiscite to settle the question? Once Indian state insists that there can be no change of its borders, then how can there be an acceptable resolution? It is also often said that the granting of an independent Kashmir will lead to disintegration of India. Is India’s sense of nationhood so insecure, that its territorial integrity hinges on holding Kashmir by force? Instead of addressing these questions and working for a genuine settlement of the Kashmir dispute, the Indian rulers give packages. They wish to rehabilitate and bribe the leadership, as they did with Sheikh Abdullah. Rehabilitation of leaders is possible, but it does not mean that the aspirations of the people can be killed or bought over in this manner. On the one hand Indian state claims that it is the biggest democracy, while on the other hand it chokes democratic movements with impunity. The people in power think in vain that they can carry on with these atrocities and yet retain its international image in repute. That aspiration to determine their own future is so deep among the Kashmiris that no economic package can assuage it, no army can crush it. A lull in the resistance should not be perceived as its defeat, but only as a precursor to a larger resistance. The self-determination of the people of Kashmir is the only logical end to this struggle.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and the chief guest of the Convention, began his address to the convention by thanking the organizers for bringing about this historic and impressive gathering. He said that it is not important that all the people here agree with the idea of azadi, but as human beings we should love all humans and respect their feelings. As for the Kashmiris, azadi is the only way. We are often asked: What do you mean by azadi? Will we be able to uphold and ensure justice for all after azadi? Sitting in Delhi, when we talk about what azadi is, the answer should not be difficult since the Indians also fought British colonialism. Similarly, Kashmiris also aspire for freedom from the Indian occupation. This forcible occupation of Kashmir has no basis. We have suffered so much under military rule in Kashmir. More than 2.5 lakh Kashmiris have been killed by the armed forces of India. We witnessed the continued suffering, trampling of our dignity and the murder of our children after 6th Nov, 1987. This terrible experience makes us demand azadi from India. Through this meeting, we want to tell millions of Indians that it is your responsibility to rise up against the oppression of Kashmiris. Keeping quiet in the name of national interest when human life is being played with and an inhuman treatment is being meted out to people, goes against the basic principles of humanity. There are 8 lakh Indian army personnel in Kashmir, and they have occupied more than 28 lakh kanal of the people’s land. Kashmiris are being forced to show their identity to a foreign army in their own land. The natives are being asked to prove their ‘nativity’. Till this day, dozens of our daughters who were gang raped by the army in Kunan Poshpora area in the early 1990s are in shock. It is the duty of the people of India to fight and raise their voice against this injustice. All those who believe in justice should extend their hand of solidarity to the people of Kashmir.

Asiya Jan and Nilofer were raped and killed in Shopian by the Indian army. Investigations were ordered when massive protests erupted across the valley against it. The official report predictably denied any rape and concluded that they drowned in a knee-deep stream. This is the model of justice Indian state upholds in Kashmir. Moreover, the army is felling forests and has set up saw mills to process the forest resources of Kashmir. Likewise, though electricity is being generated, the people do not derive any benefit out of it. Therefore, azadi is a fundamental necessity for us. When India’s forces first came to Kashmir in 1947, it was said that their stay will not be permanent. This was the promise of the Indian government. Later, it was said in 1948 that Kashmir is a disputed area. Indian government signed documents that said so. But it has backtracked on its commitment. India needs to fulfill its promises. We are reminding them of their promises through our struggle. But the price we have had to pay for this is enormous. Some eminent Indian historians have called into question the very legality of accession arguing that Hair Singh never signed the treaty of accession with India-a blatant concoction of history!

The aspiration for azadi cannot be crushed by force and violence. We tried to raise our voice even in the Kashmir Assembly, but the Indian rulers paid no heed. We believe that similar to the way in which Subhash Chandra Bose mobilised the people against the British for freedom of India, it is our right to mobilise and fight for our freedom. We all witnessed what happened when the Amarnath Shrine issue came up in 2008, how lakhs of Kashmiris came out to protest and the Indian state sought to crush it with bullets. Those who ask us about what will happen after azadi should remember how our people opened langars for the Amaranth yatris even when we were being killed in the Valley. This is our humanity. We want to tell the Indian state, even when your army is killing and dishonouring us, we take care of your soldiers who are wounded. This is because we still have humanity in us. But India has not paid any attention to this genuine human character of the Kashmiris. Indian armed forces have killed 111 Kashmiris in the last four months, though not one CRPF or army personnel has been killed by the people. Even if India collects all its forces and keeps it in Kashmir, it cannot crush Kashmir’s aspiration for freedom. India will do well to read the writings on the wall. Till the time India’s military occupation continues, we will not stop fighting.

Today, when we hear the voices of support from across India, we feel encouraged and emboldened. There are people in India who are victims of oppression, and are all fighting today. We stand with them. We must stand against injustice everywhere. Everyone, the people from Jammu, Ladakh, the Dogras and the Ladakhis are our brothers. We have repeatedly appealed to the Kashmiri pandits to come and stay in Kashmir, and assured them that they will be safe. But the decision of the majority has to prevail. We will have to accept it. Our vision is the demand for azadi. We want an end to the forcible occupation of Jammu & Kashmir. Our slogan is Go India Go Back. We are not against dialogue butt all dialogues in the past have failed because India on the one hand expresses its willingness for talks while on the other hand insists that Kashmir is an integral part of India. We cannot be a part of such dialogues which do not accept the vision of azadi. We have put forward a Five-Point charter this August on the basis of which a dialogue can be initiated. The status of Kashmir as an international dispute should be accepted and only then can a dialogue begin. The killing of 111 people during the last 4 months in police firing must be probed and the guilty punished. The geographical integrity of Jammu & Kashmir must be upheld, and the decision of the majority has to prevail.

We are also asked whether in a free Kashmir the minorities will be allowed to flourish. It is strange to hear such questions from a country where 13,500 Sikh minorities were massacred in a matter of days after a prime minister is killed, where Muslims were killed in cold blood in thousands for no crime of theirs, or where a mosque is demolished by Hindu fundamentalists with the tacit consent of the state. Yet, we want to assure all and one that justice will be the guiding principle of free Kashmir, where the well being of minorities will be guaranteed. I want to affirm that we will be brothers to our brothers of religious and national minorities of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian state has now appointed a group of so-called interlocutors to talk to the people of Kashmir in order to find out what they really want, and what they are struggling for even with so much sacrifice! If the Indian state, after all the killings, murders, rapes, atrocities and 150 rounds of negotiations extending 6 decades do not know what the Kashmiris want, we must conclude that this is another tactic on their part to delay justice and buy time. I want to declare from this platform today that the interlocutors will be boycotted, and all the people of Kashmir must boycott them entirely. We will not talk till the time you show sincerity. We have been demanding azadi in the face of naked oppression, and we will continue fighting for it till it is achieved. We feel encouraged by the support that has been extended to us by the oppressed people of India, and we too extend our solidarity to all the voices of resistance against injustice in India. Geelani concluded by once again thanking the organizers for conducting the convention.


The Secretary General, Prof Amit Bhattacharyya of CRPP read out the Resolution of the Convention, which was unanimously passed by voice vote and resounding applause from the house.

S A R Geelani thanked the chief guest, the speakers and participants of the Convention on behalf of CRPP, and reiterated the organisation’s commitment to continue the support for the struggle of the Kashmiri people for azadi.

Everyone who attended the meeting was unanimous in their opinion about the historic nature of the convention. Despite every desperate effort of the Intelligence agencies and RSS sponsored protests of Kashmiri Pandits, the meeting started at the stipulated time and weathered every minute of obstruction intentionally created by a handful of disruptors ably supported by a jingoistic media who was egging them to do more under the watchful eye of the intelligence agencies. All through the police and the intelligence agencies indulged in piecemeal intervention taking a small group outside while letting another one in.

The massive participation in the convention by people from all walks of life who patiently allowed the disruptors to indulge in their act of frustration sat through the meeting cheering the speakers and shouting slogans and resolutely staying away from any kind of provocation willfully being hatched by the disruptors. The Kashmiri people who overwhelmingly poured in to attend the convention proved once again how much they are tolerant not only in their speeches but also in their deeds as they conducted themselves admirably arguing for their genuine right to be heard while dissuading peacefully the disruptors who were trying to interrupt each and every speaker.

18 thoughts on “Minutes of the seminar on ‘Azadi: The Only Way’”

  1. enjoyed reading it, again , although i was there, i was there on the stage as well… just wondering if we truly feel that arts can play some active role… or such ideas are only at inception stage….not arts only, but are there any new ways to negotiate, not only political issues, but other as well… just below, what Shudda succinctly summed up in his write up:

    “The artist known as ‘Inder Salim’ originally from Kashmir, currently living in Delhi, made an intervention by inviting the assembled people to take (with him) the stance of a masked stone pelter for a brief, silent moment”

    with love


  2. Dear Shivam and Others

    “”He pointed out that when we talk of Kashmir, we do not mean the Valley of Kashmir alone, but the entire Jammu and Kashmir as in 1947. It includes Muzzaffarabad, Mirpur, Jammu, and Ladakh.””

    So Kashmiris from valley wants freedom so the hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist majority Ladakh should also be separated .Why?? Because our liberal-islamist combine wants it that way!!

    Whats needed is trifurcation with Kashmir valley getting independence!

    By the way, the report says…..

    “The massive participation in the convention by people from all walks of life who patiently allowed the disruptors to indulge in their act of frustration sat through the meeting cheering the speakers and shouting slogans and resolutely staying away from any kind of provocation willfully being hatched by the disruptors. The Kashmiri people who overwhelmingly poured in to attend the convention…

    Thanks for posting the videos and the seating capacity of LTG Auditorium is about 500 to 600 people. Therefore its NOT a “massive participation in the convention by people from all walks of life” and that too when “The Kashmiri people who overwhelmingly poured in to attend the convention” . Just watch the videos!!
    Even SUCI can get that many people if it wants to.

    Lastly , all these problems are emerging because of centralization of power in India. A somewhat loose federal structure or an EU like structure is ideal for India.


    1. Dear Shivam

      Thanks a lot for replying.

      Since you agree on the last part of what i said……how about working towards it?? We need to work towards improving the “Indian State” if needed by changing the structure of governance through popular movement….

      In support of my earlier comment , i want to point out what YOU POSTED on June 13, 2010 :-


      I quote:

      “”In contrast, Jammu region presents a more broken opinion, and the only consistent feature is that no one favors the status quo (which is equally true for all the regions). While independence finds extremely low support (close to 1 percent) there is no unified support for an alternative. Slightly more than 50 percent in Jammu, Kathua, and Udhampur would vote for India as an option, but Rajouri and Poonch seem not to care so much about India, Pakistan or independence. The overwhelming concern in these two latter districts is the permanent marking of the LoC. At the same time, however, the people in Rajouri and Poonch want LoC to remain open for free flow of goods and people (a demand that gets support across the regions). In Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua a frighteningly large number of people see war between India and Pakistan as a means to end conflict over Kashmir, but like Kashmiris, people of Rajouri and Poonch are absolutely opposed to war. Again, in Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua, most people would like to see Pakistan withdraw its troops from Azad Kashmir, but no such sentiment is expressed to support demilitarization and de-weaponization on the Indian side of LoC. Contrast it with Poonch and Rajouri, where almost the whole population equally supports withdrawal of Indian as well as Pakistani troops, and de-weaponization of the entire region.””


  3. Dear Shivam,

    Thanks for posting this. The account is by and large correct. However, there is a statement that is attributed to me that requires a little elaboration.

    The minutes say that I (Shuddhabrata Sengupta) said – “..we are all called upon to adhere to the abstract conception of Indian citizenship, but that we stand against this.”

    I did not say that ‘we’ stand against the abstract conception of Indian citizenship. What I did say was that ‘there are times when one should hold the abstract conception of citizenship in abeyance in order to realize the more concrete practice of human solidarity’. What I mean is simply this – I am called upon, as an Indian citizen, by those who run the indian state to deny the Kashmiri people’s desire for freedom. I refuse to accept this. For me, the concrete ties of human solidarity, which respond to pain as pain, are more important than the abstraction of citizenship, which chooses to priviledge one kind of experience over others. Were there to be a future Kashmiri free state, I would hope that the citizens of that state, too, would find it in themselves to put aside the abstraction of their citizenship if the concrete realities of human soildarity were in conflict with that notion of citizenship. In other words, I am asking for a recognition of the moral worth of rising above the limits of citizenship and the nation (any citizen of any nation or would be nation) when it is undertaken in the larger interest of humanity. I know that the minutes of a meeting are not the best platform of demonstrating a nuanced argument, but still, thought it worth the while to place this on record, for fear of being over interpreted, and under-understood. Thanks, Shuddha.


  4. Dear Shuddha,

    I think your clarification is very important. It is a pity that videographed speeches of the event – except for Arundhati’s, are not available on YouTube yet, and only parts of Geelani’s speech are accessible,those too only on Facebook, and not Google-able. We’re not even talking about transcripts or translations yet. I have been urging the organisers to do so, and after much effort were even these minutes obtained. It should have been elementary to run these minutes through the speakers. I am also urging the organisers of the Srinagar conference to make videos, transcripts and minutes of their seminar available in the public domain.



  5. For a more detailed elaboration of my point begun here, see the comment I posted on Suvaid Yaseen’s Facebook page at – http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/note.php?note_id=441735237454&id=535418917

    Shvam, I understand the urgency of having these minutes out, so do not object to the fact that they were not given to the speakers to look at. In any case having them posted provides all speakers (like myself) with the opportunity to clarify and elaborate on what we were saying. That being said, no speaker was in disagreement with the demand of ‘Azadi’ for Kashmir.


  6. Mine was a minor quibble, Shuddha.

    Unfortunately, not many will be able to see your comment on Suvaid’s page. They will have to be members of Facebook, and perhaps also be on Suvaid’s friends list to be able to view it. If you want to expand your clarification above, you can edit the comment if you’re logged in to Kafila.


  7. Thanks for making the people enlightened about the developments and reaction from people representing the vast Indian population. One thing missing, India is the only hindu country in the world.The educated society abhor to speak this out.Statiscally it may be wrong, Nepal is the other. Quite naturally in the subconcious mind of all Indians the security of the country remains as number one issue and strategic location of Kashmir makes one think if someone should be sympathetic to suffering Kashmiris in their movement? The Kashmiris who are in the movement for right of self determination are Muslims and historically their forefathers conquered India to make it united India and unlike other conquerors they did not leave but stayed on, got asimilated into the society and that population is close to 20% of the total population. Indians in general are concerned with these people. There is nothing wrong in that perception. The same would have been the position in any country. Just think about Macedonia, a tiny population in Europe, are they not coming up with their claim to establish their own state? This is the trend on 21st century and more similar cases would come up. In the changed world the days of taking over by powerful states becoming rare. Even the smallest group of population could think of having their own state, that was there in the past.


  8. though i am keen follower of kafila and it’s viewpoint is quite valid at many levels, just as an observation can’t help but see certain similarity in the way opinions are packaged as facts, manufactured in equal sense by both the Indian state as well many speakers of this gathering…. specifically my point is ” Is the struggle about azaadi or the right to self determination”Only the latter in my opinion is just cause to fight for..rest are all individual opinions..


  9. What Kashmiri separatists do are ‘protests’. What the Pundits do is ‘ruckus’. How does one develop such insights ?


  10. ‘Right to self-determination is a fundamental right. India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which uphold that every community has the right to determine their own future’

    Can anyone clarify whether the so called self-determination in international law always includes the right to form a new state by breaking away and what is meant by community is this. What happens when only one section in a community wants azadi but others dont want.If one is talking of J&K is that not the reality.If oppression of communities by state is an issue the record of communist regimes and islamist regimes including that of India’s neighbour is no better. You cannot be defending stalin and mao, and, human rights simulatenously.


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