Ali Giani: An icon of Kashmir freedom movement
IQBAL rightly said that for a thousand years the narcissus has been lamenting its blindness; with great difficulty, the one with true vision is born in the garden.
It seems that Iqbal’s poetry was written on the vision and charismatic personality of Syed Ali Gilani, who was a torchbearer and an icon of the Kashmir Freedom Movement.
He died on 1st September 2021 at the age of 92, but a hero never dies, he remains alive and transfers his legacy to the upcoming generations.
Syed Gilani has always advocated the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir and supported the UN resolutions.
Kashmir’s struggle for independence is as old as the partition of the subcontinent which has never been dependent on people and kept growing on its own.
However, the Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Gilani gave momentum to the Kashmir Freedom Movements.
His stance and steadfast approach towards India’s anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir policies gave strength to the people of Kashmir to fight for their right cause ie self-determination.
To achieve this goal, he participated in elections as a member of the Jaammat-e Islamia in the 1990s.
The party aimed to make a sweeping win in the election and passed a resolution in the general assembly in support of the right to self-determination.
But due to elections’ manipulation gave a major setback to Syed Ali Gilani and other members of the Muslim United Front.
In 1989 uprising against Indian rule peaked in Kashmir and Syed Ali Gilani and like-minded leaders founded the Hurriyat conference, a pro-freedom organization.
He has been an active member of the conference which supported the Kashmir merger with Pakistan and sought implementation of UN resolutions.
Like a torchbearer, he has guided the pro-freedom movement of Kashmir and inspired people.
His vision about India and its policies in Kashmir remain unchanged and Kashmiris praise his leadership role against India.
Therefore, Gilani actively led the pro-freedom movement in Kashmir, and his calls for the demonstration were always supported by the masses.
Due to his ideology and stand against India, he has faced jail terms. Since the Modi-led Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in India, BJP’s prejudiced policies in majority Muslim areas rigorously followed.
When it comes to particularly Kashmir, it was used as a flashcard for the political parties in India to fulfill their patriotic appetite for the Hindu nationalist country and a revenge card against Pakistan.
The changes that India did in Kashmir after 5 August 2019, have given a major setback to the people of Kashmir.
The military crackdowns and widespread use of detention laws against people who choose to speak against the regime have made it difficult for people to survive under the new form of oppression.
Gilani was tortured and placed under house arrest on 5 August after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution.
Article 370’s revocation rewrites occupied Kashmir’s history, demographically depopulates Muslims and encourages Hindutva settlements resembling Israeli-style settler colonialism.
Kashmiris are unlikely to get relief from the Indian Supreme Court. Their 75 years of struggle will persist along with India’s obduracy.
India has always been afraid of rebellion in Kashmir, particularly after the 2008 mass uprising and later the death of Commander Burhan Wani in 2016.
Millions of people attended his funeral and the Muslim majority region came to a standstill for six months.
India feared similar repercussions when the iconic leader Syed Ali Gilani died. To stop people from coming out, India imposed a security crackdown and communications blackout.
The funeral was held forcibly and secretly and to date, the grave remains out of reach because India fears it might give vent to the sentiments of the Kashmiri people.
Though India claims normalcy in Kashmir such incidents are real proof of the challenges it faces in Kashmir and the continuous rejection, in other words, it is a forcible occupation that remains unwanted to date.
After Giani’s death, Kashmiri freedom movement has mushroomed in IIOJK. The BJP government must release legitimate Kashmiri leaders from prison, and India must grant Kashmiris a referendum on self-determination, complying with UN resolutions 1514 and 2649.
His life-long sacrifices and ceaseless struggle symbolizes the indomitable resolve of Kashmiris against Indian occupation.
His dream & his mission will continue until the people of IIOJK win their right to self-determination.
—The author is an Islamabad-based analyst and expert on Indo-Pacific, Security and South Asian Politics.