New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) A group of Kashmiri Hindu activists Thursday heckled and tried to prevent hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani and author-activist Arundhati Roy from speaking at a seminar in the capital, prompting police to arrest a dozen of the slogan-shouting protesters.
The activists, mainly from a Hindu group that is demanding separate land for migrant Kashmiri Pandits, shouted slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, leading to a ruckus at the seminar, ‘Azaadi — The Only Way’, organized and attended by sympathisers of Kashmiri separatists.
Some Kashmiri students in Delhi countered by shouting slogans in Geelani’s favour and for ‘azadi’ – or Jammu and Kashmir’s independence from India.
Anticipating trouble at the pro-freedom seminar, organised by the Campaign for Relief of Political Prisoners, authorities had deployed a large number of police persons at the LTG Auditorium venue in the heart of the capital.
As the bedlam continued and the two groups almost got into fist fights, police whisked away the activists of Panun Kashmir and detained at least 40 of them. They were later released.
The trouble started when the speakers advocated freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from India, condemning the alleged human rights violations by the army and security forces in the state.
The Kashmiri Hindu protesters waved the national flag at the speakers and tried to disrupt the seminar, strongly objecting to their ‘anti-national’ views.
Geelani’s supporters countered with slogans like ‘We want freedom’, ‘Go India Go’ and ‘Kaun karega tarjumani, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’.
As Roy was giving her speech in the jam-packed auditorium, asking the government not to hold Kashmir against the will of its people, the Hindu activists threw notebooks and paper missiles at her, demanding to know if the speakers had ever raised the plight of Kashmiri Pandits when they were forced to flee their homes in the Kashmir Valley after the uprising broke out in 1989.
Roy tried to pacify them saying whatever happened to Kashmiri Pandits was ‘criminal’.
‘But we also should not forget that Kashmiris cannot inhale or exhale without the breath going through the barrel of guns,’ she said, referring to the ‘heavy’ presence of security forces in the Kashmir Valley.
‘India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs from India,’ she said, attracting noisy protests that died down when the Booker-winning author said she was speaking for ‘the idea of justice system that connects us all’.
When Geelani rose to speak, the noisy protesters repeated the ruckus and objected to his speech in which he spoke of ‘Kashmir’s complete independence from India’.
He pacified his supporters, saying their relations with the people of India were based on humanity and they should respect each other’s sentiments even if they differed on ideology.
‘Our war is with the establishment not with the people of India,’ he said, adding the people of India should ‘understand that gross human rights violations were being committed in the state in their name’.