Syed Ali Gilani — A champion for human dignity, peace

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Syed Ali Shah Gilani is deemed as the quintessence of honesty, steadfastness, struggle, and vision in the chronicles of Kashmir freedom movement. Considered as the soul of Kashmiris’ struggle and resistance his passion, ideology, and vision about Kashmir remain matchless even posthumously. Throughout his life, he projected Kashmir issue with greater clarity and united people of Kashmir on one cause i.e. the right to self-determination and liberation of Kashmiris from Indian bondage.

A well-known author and historian Alastair Lamb lauded Syed Ali Shah Gilani’s righteousness in 1991 and mentioned that he did not take part in the 1983 State Elections “on the ground that to do so would be to endorse the State’s accession to India.

Syed Ali Gilani’s vision for the freedom movement in Kashmir was based on the principles of non-violence, peaceful resistance and international support. In his mind, he had firm belief that Kashmiris could achieve their goal of independence through peaceful means like protests, civil disobedience movements and demonstrations because in his views adoption of violent policies could only alienate international support and make it more difficult for Kashmiris to achieve their desired goals. He was avid supporter of international support on Kashmir Issue. Gilani believed that the Kashmiri people needed international support in their struggle for independence.

Gilani’s vision for the freedom movement in Kashmir was akin to the visions of other freedom movements around the world like African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). These movements also believed in the principles of non-violence and peaceful resistance as so did Syed Ali Gilani.

We do remember what Gandhi said about Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah: “Mr Jinnah is incorruptible and brave. I believe no power can buy him.” The same can be said about Gilani Sahib. Let me quote, Dr Sameer Kaul, a well-known cardiologist and a Kashmiri Pandit, who said as reported by Rediff.com on October 11, 2010, that Gilani Sahib had become incorruptible. 80 per cent of Kashmiris respect Gilani Sahib simply because he is not corrupt. Gilani Sahib is honest and sincere to his people, Dr Kaul added. New York-based Associated Press reported on September 2, 2021, “During Kashmir’s recent years of civilian protests, the slogan “Na Jhukne Wala Gilani! Na Bikne Wala, Gilani! (Gilani, the one who doesn’t bow and can’t be bought!)” became almost a war cry on the streets.” New York Times also quoted one of the most moving conversations between Gilani and a Police officer. “Open the door, I won’t fly away,” he told the officers. “We want to perform a funeral for your democracy.”

Gilani never compromised on the principle of the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. That was echoed by New York Times also on September 2, 2021, that Syed Ali Gilani was an uncompromising leader of Kashmir. When President Musharraf suggested sidelining the UN Security Council resolutions to find an out-of-the-box solution and proposed four-point formula. It was none other than Gilani Sahib who rejected the formula, simply because it was against the basic principle of the right to self-determination. Gilani never closed the channel of communication with world leaders and even with his adversaries. He wrote to N. N. Vohra, then the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir as reported by Daily Tribune (October 14, 2016. “Because of 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 spilt, but to no avail,” and that “Kashmir is a political problem and can only be resolved politically and not militarily. No amount of military might will resolve it, which has been made evident in the past seven decades.”

Gilani Sahib wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on September 6, 2013, “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 the 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.

The untimely death of Syed Ali Gilani who was a symbol of humanity and a champion of human rights all over the world and although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love.

The freedom movements of East Timor in Indonesia, South Africa and South Sudan achieved success due to role played by western nations, the similar role and support has been denied to Kashmir thanks to the apathy of the west, but despite all odds Syed Ali Gilani continued his struggle till death couple of years ago on September 01, 2021.

The western nations particularly champions of global peace like United States allowed several campaigns like Irish revolution in which Irish migrants living in US were allowed to run campaigns and collect funds for armed struggle against England and whenever British government raised objections over the Irish activities, US government shut the shop by terming it a matter of human rights. It is also US where in the name of collecting funds for settlement of Jewish people in Palestine, several casinos have been established in Las Vegas and their funds are transferred directly to the Israeli government. For several years, African National Congress ran its campaign against racism in South Africa and it succeeded in making Nelson Mandela a hero around the world. I wonder if the people of these states had been Muslims, the success could not have been easy and people like Nelson Mandela would not have been heroes.

Syed Ali Gilani could have been deemed at par with contemporary leaders like Nelson Mandela who had been hailed as a “hero of our time” for leading the triumphant fight against apartheid in South Africa, had he not been a Muslim and Kashmiri. Although Syed Ali Gilani could not see Kashmir to achieve liberation struggle but he could be hailed as champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation in Kashmir. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.

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