My wife’s maternal grandfather was once the Vice Chancellor of Jammu University. It was a long time ago but recently, exercising his capacity as a retired educationalist, he wrote an open letter to the Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Obviously, it is an outcome of the pain he has experienced because of what the Kashmir valley has gone through in the past few months. I am reproducing the letter here, as is.
An open letter to Mr Geelani
Geelani Sahib, I have to say with anguish that your rigid political posture is doing more harm than good to the peace-loving people of Kashmir. I think Pakistan played the most cruel joke with the people of Kashmir by foisting a proxy war on them and now you are shooting your darts. Instead of placing computers and loptops in the hands of the youth of Kashmir to prosper, you are placing stones in their hands to perish.
When you came out of your detention from Chashmashahi hut, you advised the people not to resort to violence. You said to them, ‘‘If you have taken out a procession and you are stopped by the police, you adopt the strategy of the sit-down protest in the Gandhian way without having a violent confrontation with the police. ’’ Everybody welcomed this change in the mode of protests. But, unfortunately, this change did not last long. Again, there was the vicious circle of stone-pelting, firing, loss of a valuable life, a funeral procession, again stone pelting….
If you swore by Gandhian ways of non-violent struggle, you should have halted your agitation at this juncture. The moment there was violence, Gandhiji would withdraw his agitation. He would not wait for 100 youth to die to take this decision. Starting an agitation is easy, but withdrawing an agitation when it is going in a wrong direction, needs courage.
Why are you asking for azadi so passionately ? The dignity and honour of the people of Kashmir are safe in India. Moreover, a Muslim majority State becoming a willing part of India will strengthen the secular character of Indian Democracy which is in the interest of the Indian Muslims. Your stance of azadi gives the impression that Indian Muslims are in India on account of compulsion because they have no other choice. Where they have a choice, they want to opt out of India.
The greatest casualty of the disturbed situation in Kashmir has been the education of the children. And as an educationist I feel concerned about it. During militancy in 1994 I went to Srinagar once. As I passed through Lal Chowk on my way to the Secretariat, I saw children going to schools in their uniforms with bags on their backs. I thought Pakistan had not been able to kill the spirit of the people of Kashmir. What Pakistan could not achieve, you have achieved. The schools and colleges are closed and studies of the students are suffering. Many of them are roaming about in Jammu with their parents and knocking at the doors of local educational institutions seeking permission to attend the classes. What a pity !
And now, Geelani Sahib, I seek a personal favour from you. When I was Director of Colleges from 1973 to 1975, you were an MLA you used to come to me to seek favours for your voters. Now, in turn, I seek one favour from you.
I am told Assalam-o-Alaikum means ‘peace be upon you’. I request you to just say Assalam-o-Alaikum to the people of Kashmir.
Prof M R Puri
Vice Chancellor (Retd)