The Unshakeable Kashmiri Resolve

Syed Ali Gilani’s struggle for self-determination continues 

By Ghulam Nabi Fai 


Self-determination, despite its ambiguities, has recently blossomed into a pivotal element in international relations as the key to resolving long-festering disputes and unforgiving conflicts. Exemplary cases have been Namibia, East Timor and South Sudan. In each case, self-determination was fueled by oppressive foreign or national rule. These new countries also derived strength from international law and UN Security Council resolutions. 

Kashmir fits these precedents like a glove. The princely state attained independence on Aug. 15, 1947, when British paramountcy lapsed. When an indigenous Kashmiri Muslim insurgency threatened to topple Hari Singh, the repressive Hindu maharaja (ruler) – whose grandfather Gulab Singh was sold Kashmir and its people by the British occupiers under The Treaty of Amritsar (1846), the Indian army invaded on Oct. 26, 1947, relying on an alleged Instrument of Accession to India. In his “The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir: A Reappraisal” (1994), Alistair Lamb, showed that this document is as bogus as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A British diplomatic historian, Lamb is also the author “The Crisis in Kashmir” (1966), “Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy: 1846-1990” (1991), “Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947” (1994), “Incomplete Partition: Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute 1947-1948 (1997) and “The Kashmir Problem” (co-authored with Sibghat ullah Siddiqi, 2021).

Some have said that NATO’s 1999 intervention in Kosovo to defend the Kosovar Albanians’ human rights against Slobodan Milosevic marked a watershed in the protection of human rights. No longer would the world tolerate a nation’s subjugation of its own people. This sanguine observation, was, however, vastly overstated. In fact, this intervention only occurred because the refugee problem spilled over into the European Union countries. That conclusion is supported by the indifference shown by Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov, who, on March 1, 2022, made a clear distinction between Ukrainians and others, “These people (Ukrainians) are Europeans … These people are intelligent; they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists …” . 

Until a generally accepted moral duty evolves among peoples and nations to assist all victims of widespread human rights violations by force or other stiff retaliation, it seems that human rights enforcement mechanisms will operate haphazardly and whimsically for reasons unrelated to the harm done to the victims or the perpetrators’ villainy. It is our responsibility to jump-start that moral evolution  

Syed Ali Geelani (d. 2021; see also, IH, March-April 2021), an iconic and the most recognizable Kashmiri leader, was the symbol of defiance who stood firm for his people’s right to self-determination. Not only was he an intellectual and deep thinker, but also a brilliant and articulate scholar. Above all, he had become an institution.  

We remember what Gandhi’s statements that Muhammad Ali Jinnah “is incorruptible and brave. I believe no power can buy him.” The same can be said about Geelani. Dr. Sameer Kaul, a well-known cardiologist and Kashmiri Pandit (upper caste Hindu) who served as his long-time personal physician, stated that Geelani is incorruptible, that 80% of the Kashmiris respect him simply because of this fact and that he is honest and sincere to his people.

The Associated Press reported on Sept. 2, 2021, “During Kashmir’s recent years of civilian protests, the slogan “Na Jhukne Wala Geelani! Na Bikne Wala, Geelani! (Geelani, the one who doesn’t bend! Nor can he be bought out!)” became almost a war cry on the streets.”  

Geelani never compromised on the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, a fact echoed by New York Times (Sept. 2, 2021) when it called him an uncompromising leader of Kashmir. It also quoted one of the most moving conversations between Geelani and a police officer. “Open the door, I won’t fly away,” he tells him. “We want to perform a funeral for your democracy.”  

When Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf (2001-08) suggested sidelining the UN Security Council resolutions to find an out-of-the-box solution, Geelani rejected his proposed a four-point formula because it ignored the right to self-determination. 

Geelani never closed the channel of communication with world leaders or his adversaries. He wrote to N. N. Vohra, then the governor of [illegally Indian-occupied] Jammu & Kashmir, as reported by Daily Tribune (Oct. 14, 2016), “Because of the non-resolution of this issue [Kashmir], the region lives in a state of fear, uncertainty, and mistrust. Wars have been fought, thousands of lives lost, and blood spilled — but to no avail” and that “Kashmir is a political problem and can only be resolved politically, not militarily. No amount of military might will resolve it, which has been made evident during the past seven decades.”  

In his Sept. 6, 2013, letter to German chancellor Angela Merkel, Geelani noted, “The Kashmiri people have always been grateful for the principled support for universal human rights and a peaceful, negotiated settlement to all international disputes by the members of the European Union, including Germany. But Kashmiris are dismayed and disappointed by the decision of the German Embassy in India to organize a concert in Kashmir conducted by Zubin Mehta as part of ‘broader engagements’ with Kashmiri people. We believe that this concert is being used by India to legitimize its military Occupation of our land and whitewash its shameful atrocities in Kashmir” (Kashmir Life, September 6, 2013).

In an open letter to members of India’s Parliament, he stated, “I am addressing you on behalf of my people, who have been striving for peace, justice, freedom, and dignity. During these years we have suffered immensely at the hands of your armed forces, which are implementing the policy of subjugation and control over our lives, resources, culture, and dignity. My words may be harsh, as I do not know of any other way of conveying the brutalization that my people have faced because of your state policies” (Newsletter, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, July 11, 2009). He urged conscientious Indian parliamentarians (ibid.) to initiate a debate on the issue of unmarked and/or mass graves, the crimes being perpetrated on the state’s people and agree to end this shameful and tyrannical occupation. 

Geelani also wrote to Pakistani parliamentarians, “We are grateful for the support of the Pakistani people and expect that its politicians and all sections of Pakistani society will continue to extend its moral, political, and diplomatic support to the Jammu and Kashmir freedom struggle. We urge the Pakistani people to protect the sacrifices of people of Jammu and Kashmir during all these years and to not allow any dilution or laxity in the principled stand of Pakistan vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir” (Newsletter, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, March 21, 2010).

In his letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held at Astana, Kazakhstan, between June 28-30, 2011, Syed Ali Geelani pointed out that “The OIC is a very potent body, powerful enough to influence the global decisions and enforce its own agenda. But what has been preventing it to perform the role history has cast for it? Why it has not so for succeeded in persuading India to live by its promise and concede right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir? The reason, as I see it, has been that majority of member countries of OIC have not been living by the resolutions adopted on Kashmir in its meetings and summits in their relations with India.” 

One of his remarks made at a press conference (Oct. 26, 2009) — 500,000 Biharis will be given Kashmiri citizenship, as well as 600,000-700,000 members of the army will be given citizenship to change Kashmir’s demography. Then, India will say OK, let’s have a referendum now — has proven prophetic.  

The enactment of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019, has overwhelmed Kashmir’s indigenous population. More than 4.1 million domicile certificates have been issued within the past two years to reduce the Muslim-majority population to a minority in their own land. Hirdesh Kumar, chief electoral officer of Jammu & Kashmir, said on Aug. 17, 2022, that “We are expecting an addition of (2 to 2.5 million) new voters in the final list,” including non-Kashmiris living in the region.  

These facts make it clear that Kashmir’s decades-long suffering is a rebuke to the UN for its inaction. The situation is a call on the conscience of the Security Council members, particularly of the U.S. 

Dr. Nazir Gilani wrote to the UN Secretary General during the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Aug. 22, 2021, that the “Modi Government does not seem to have any regard for the two UN Reports on Kashmir, the concerns expressed by United States of America, China, pleadings of the Government of Pakistan and concerns expressed by the international community. Delhi is all out to decimate the Kashmiri Muslims and violate their right to a quality of life and dignity of the person in the Valley.”

The death of Geelani, a leader par excellence, a symbol of humanity and champion of human rights worldwide, has brought about the end of an era. 

Ghulam Nabi Fai, Ph.D., is the chairman, Washington-based World Forum for Peace & Justice. 

He can be reached at: WhatsApp: 1-202-607-6435, or


Tell us what you thought by joining our Facebook community. You can also send comments and story pitches to Islamic Horizons does not publish unsolicited material.