Crimilizing dissent, silencing democracy

Syed Abdullah Gillani, APHC

ARIF a Kashmiri muslim arrested for his involvement in a bomb blast was acquitted after 14 years. He was 25 at the time of his arrest. The only thing the judge said to him while acquitting him of all charges after 14 years when he was 40 was “i am sorry”.
Prof GN Saibaba is in jail for alleged Maoist links for almost six months now. He has failed to secure bail despite 90% physical disability and the jail conditions have further worsened his situation leading to heart ailments and problems in other vital organs.
Such is the condition of political prisoners in India. In India the majoity of poltical prisoners include marginalised people like dalits and adivasis and muslims particularly kashmiri muslims who are imprisoned, or have been imprisoned, in various jails in India accused of treason and other false charges.The general public mostly remains ignorant about these people with the government through consorted efforts ensuring their ignorance. Such cases are hardly reported and when they are reported they remain hidden in the inside pages of newspapers in inconspicuous places where they hardly get noticed.
In india the only people concerned about these prisoners are a few organizations and activists, and their hapless relatives awaiting justice for their loved ones.
One of the prominent voices in india for such political prisoners is a Kashmiri Muslim based in New Delhi named SAR Geelani. Geelani a native of Baramulla,Kashmir is a PhD scholar from Delhi University where he is currently teaching Arabic Literature as a professor.
For Geelani life turned an ugly turn when he was falsely charged by the Special Cell of Delhi Police with masterminding the attack on Indian Parliamnet in 2001. Thereafter a fierce media trial was unleashed against him projecting him as an “intellectual terrorist” as result in December 2002, a special Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court sentenced Geelani to death. In 2003 however he was acquitted of all charges by Delhi High Court and the acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court of india.
While the case was pending in the Supreme Court, Geelani filed an affidavit in the High Court in March 2004 stating that he was being shadowed by the police and intelligence agencies ever since his acquittal. He said he feared he might become the victim of a fake encounter as several attempts were made on his life when he was in jail. His complaint was dismissed by the court. However on February 8, 2005, there was assasination attempt on him outside his lawyers house in New Nelhi where five bullets were fired at him of which two remain inside his body till date. 11 years after the attack Delhi Police has no clues about his attackers.
Ever since his release geelani has been the target of hindu right wing groups who have attacked and disrupted his meetings at several occasions.
Having seen the plight of people behind bars for political reasons, Geelani after his release in 2003 first launched a small group called Society for Protection of Detainees and Prisoners’ Rights(SPDPR) which had representatives from the North East india , Punjab, etc. with veteran theatre personality Gursharan Sing as the President. The sphere of the organisation was broadened in 2007 and “Committe for the Release of Political Prisoners(CRPP) was launched with a two-day open-for-all convention in New Delhi. He is one of the vice presidents of the organisation along with people like Jagmohan Singh, the nephew of Bhagat Singh. The organisation actively takes up the cause of political prisoners and provides legal assistance to them apart from spreading awareness amongst people about their cases and the injustices done to them
Through this organisation Geelani has been touring all over india and taking cases of political prisoners who languish in jails for demanding their legitimate rights. The cases his organisation takes up includes cases of innocent Kashmiris who are framed in false cases and remain languishing in jails across varoius states in india, amogst others. Geelani being a Kashmiri is an ardent supporter of Kashmiri people’s right to self determination and as a human rights activist has taken up the issue at various prestigious platforms in india and has been garnering large support at each platform.
Geelani’s activism puts up constant challenge to the anti-people policies of the indian government, therefore feeling threatened by his pro- people activism and in order to muzzle his dissenting voice Professor Syed Abdur Rahman Geelani more than a decade after he was acquitted, in 2005, was again arrested in the early hours of February 16 2016 on the farce charges of sedition conspiracy and unlawful assembly for organising a meeting at the Press Club of India (PCI)in new delhi on February 10 to mark the hanging of Afzal Guru who was his co accused in parliamnet attack case. After being acquitted in the Parliament attack case, Geelani had campaigned vigorously against the death sentence given to Guru. infact when Guru was secretly hanged in 2013 Geelani was taken into preventive detention for the entire day to prevent him from holding any protest against the hanging.
The arrest of SAR Geelani is an attempt to muffle the vioce of thousands of political prisoners in india, an attempt to silence the voices of kashmiris demanding their legitimate right of self determination and to crush every form of dissent. Presently when an extremist hindu right wing party is at the helm of affairs in india raising our voice against this arbitrary arrest of SAR Geelani has become imperative to regain the democratic libertarian space and to prevent the government repression to take further roots.
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