Friday February 03, 2023

The struggle continues

By Editorial Board
September 03, 2021

The freedom struggle of the people of Kashmir lost its veteran leader when former chief of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Syed Ali Shah Geelani breathed his last at the age of 92 on Thursday, September 1. True to form, rather than facilitating his burial, the Indian authorities ended up imposing a security clampdown in Occupied Kashmir. Syed Geelani’s death, mourned by leaders from across Kashmir, is a huge loss to the movement for Kashmir’s autonomy. Geelani was not just a leading member of Hurriyat Conference but also a symbol of the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle. Against the decades of oppression by the Indian occupying forces, Geelani stood like an uncompromising campaigner for the rights of Kashmiris. He had been under house arrest for nearly 12 years and was ill for several months. His struggle spanned over 60 years in which he campaigned for the territory’s merger with Pakistan. He was also a member of the Kashmir assembly from where he gave calls for the separation of Occupied Kashmir from India. He endured numerous jail terms and often Indian forces restricted his movements to his home alone. As the Hurriyat chief, Geelani served for over 25 years and led the movement against the occupation. Throughout his life he waged a courageous struggle for his people and their right to self-determination, proving that incarceration and torture by the occupying Indian state cannot shake the resoluteness of freedom struggle in Kashmir.

The Kashmiris have shown they are determined to fight on, no matter what the odds may be. And this state of mind is set to continue for the coming months and years with India as yet showing no signs of softening its controversial decision to annex Kashmir virtually into India in 2019, when its limited autonomy was stripped away, and the Valley turned into one of two union territories. The Kashmiris have fought for freedom since 1947, and most notably since the late 1980s and early 1990s when a struggle led by Kashmiri youth sprung up in the area. Despite the fact that mainly young people were fighting Indian troops with stones while the soldiers were armed with guns and heavy weaponry, there was no change in India’s stance towards Kashmir. Sadly, there is also no major change in the world’s approach to the problem. While UN resolutions have been quoted again and again, there is very little real effort to implement or act on these.

As such the Kashmiris have fought alone – and valiantly. The question now is how long they can continue this battle for freedom without help from the outside world. Too many lives have already been lost, too many households broken apart. Children have suffered, as have the women raped in Kashmir and the other victims of this unending war. An answer has to be found and the world must get together to do so. The Kashmiris cannot be expected to fight alone for decade after decade, with no signs that New Delhi is willing to accept their demand for their right to self-determination. The world must accept that Kashmiris have a right to choose their destiny. Syed Geelani’s death marks the end of an era. But the battle will continue. The question is for how long the Kashmiris can keep up their struggle unless they receive much more assistance and much more support from the world beyond Pakistan.