Geelani is no longer taken seriously in Kashmir

For the benefit of our readers we reproduce an interview of Sh. Sanjay Tickoo, a non-displaced Kashmiri Pandit leader who stayed put all through in Valley. Mr Tickoo talked to Kunal Mujumdar of Tehelka Times in April 2011. —Editor

Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s visit to Pandit camps is pointless-Sanjay Tickoo

How do you look at separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s visit to Kashmiri Pandit camps outside Srinagar?

It has surprised us all. For years, Geelani advocated that Kashmir should be an Islamic State and should have Islamic law. Now, he talks about protecting Kashmiri Pandits. Since 2005, we have been asking what rights will minorities have in a Kashmiri settlement.

News reports suggested that more than 100 Kashmiri Pandits were present at Geelani’s meeting. How acceptable is he?

No one takes him seriously, leave alone Kashmiri Pandits. He remembers the Pandits only when he is losing ground in Kashmir. The only option left for Geelani is to approach the Pandits who are returning to the Valley for jobs — not to rebuild their old homes.

Does that mean the visit is meaningless?

In 2008, before the Amarnath land row, we went to Geelani with photographs of our temples that had been desecrated, looted and burnt by unscrupulous elements from the majority community. We went because he had issued a statement saying the temples were not burnt by people of the majority community. He said he would issue a fatwa against the guilty. But nothing has happened so far. Therefore, we fail to understand what he really means when he says that he will protect our dignity and our religious places.

Geelani had also announced that Kashmiri Pandits should move to their ancestral homes in the Valley. Is it possible in the present atmosphere?

No way. The burning of Kashmiri Pandit properties began in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. If Geelani is asking the Pandits to return to their homes, why doesn’t he label their houses? The political rhetoric of the state changes according to the interest of the state and non-state actors. As of now, no one wants Kashmiri Pandits to really come and live in the pre-1991 state. It is just not possible. There is a big political, religious and societal divide between the two communities now.

How do you suggest reconciliation then?

The only way reconciliation is possible is when both mainstream political parties and separatist organisations start acknowledging that the Pandits were targeted. They know the people responsible for killing the Pandits from 15 March 1989 till today. We have already informed them that we have identified the killers. If they wish we can give them the names but they already know. The killers of not just the Pandits but also ordinary innocent Kashmiri Muslims have to be punished, even if they are punished under Islamic law. Let them make this gesture. They have also been propagating that the Centre conspired by sending Jagmohan as governor. This is a lie. If you go back in history, you will find most of the migration happened after Jagmohan’s tenure. The truth has to be told.

But there will be no reconciliation this way.

I didn’t leave the Valley, I have been living here through the troubled times. If I have not been getting the same stature as a Kashmiri, how can you expect whoever is returning to get a fair deal? Will we get back our lands, which were encroached upon? Will they return our businesses? People who have returned from other cities are virtually in jail here. They cannot venture out after 7 pm. Going to a Kashmiri Pandit camp means nothing. There has to be some concrete action.