Tribute to SAR Geelani on 3rd Death Anniversary

SAR Geelani

It has been three years since  Sayed Abdul Rahman Geelani known as SAR among his friends, at the age of 50, suddenly and much too soon, left us, on 24 October 2019. The shock of his untimely demise is a void very hard to fill. He played the role as a teacher, an educator and a tireless defender of human rights who at all costs spoke fearlessly for the rights of the most oppressed. Till his last breath, he strived to extinguish fascism.  In particular, it was his awareness of the situation in Kashmir, and his concern for justice and the right to self-determination of his people, that shaped the course of his life. Even when he moved out of Kashmir to study in the 1990s when militancy was at sit height, he dreamt of returning home, to serve and teach. However the political tension in Kashmir obstructed his return, so he took up a teaching post as a professor of Arabic at the University of Delhi. In the later part of the decade, the family joined him in the city.

SAR Geelani was one of the most relentless stalwarts in the cause of liberation of Kashmir and boldest voices or bravest hearts against neo-fascism. With unflinching resilience or tenacity he withstood the targeting by the Hindutva neo-fascist forces, being an integral part of the anti-fascist movement. He offered great solidarity to the movement against incarceration of Maoist political prisoners and dalit activists, deploying every ounce of his energy in fortifying the Commitee for the release of political prisoners.Geelani participated in the 1st conference of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in Hyderabad in 2012, representing the Kashmiri cause. I was present in Delhi where on his initiative a protest was launched at Jantar Mantar in March 2013, against the capital punishment to Afzal Guru. He encouraged me to speak, which I appreciated. Most consistently he organised solidarity for activists fabricated from all spheres be it Maoists, dalits,Maruti workers or Adivasis. Few gave as much moral support to G.N Saibaba’s family after his arrest, or offered as much solidarity to movement to procure is release. In most diverse spheres he waged a battle for human rights, remaining unflinched,even after being warned by lawyers to restrain his activities after having faced a charge.

Geelani laboured tirelessly to extinguish evil from   the world, transforming it into a paradise. At the same time, he never stopped being a doting father, friend, guide, mentor and philosopher. He was exuberant with boundless energy and laughed like a child with children. He was respectful to elders. , was humble and immensely kind to everyone.

Stalwarts like SAR Geelani have to be resurrected with darkness of Hindutva neo fascism enveloping the nation and Kashmiri people stripped of their right to self –determination. No doubt he may not have adopted a Marxist Leninist of proletarian position on Kashmir, or tilted o rgravitated towards Islamist forces from All ndia Huriyat Stream , but in this day and age to raise voice on behalf of oppressed people of Kashmir against repression by the saffron brigade needs to be admired.Democrats like Arundhati Roy,Nandita Narain  and Professor Haragopal paid overwhelming tributes to SAR ,on his death.

Geelani laboured tirelessly to extinguish evil from   the world, transforming it into a paradise. At the same time, he never stopped being a doting father, friend, guide, mentor and philosopher. He was exuberant with boundless energy and laughed like a child with children. He was respectful to elders. , was humble and immensely kind to everyone.

Geelani was arrested in connection with the Parliament attack case in December 2001,but was acquitted for “need of evidence” by the Delhi High Court in October 2003, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2005.Though the apex court had upheld the high court decision; it had remained “suspicious of his role”.

On 14 th December 2001, Geelani was arrested by the dreaded special cell of the Delhi Police, falsely accused of involvement in the attack on the Indian parliament. While he was languishing in jail a prejudiced media trial demonized him as a terrorist. It seemed that Indian democracy had pronounced its verdict even before the actual trial in its own court was over. Why else would the regular vegetable vendor of his family suddenly refuse to sell to his seven-year-old so? The  local phone booth operator refused to let us his family make  calls to their relatives  in Kashmir. Such events became the order of the day, and his family were forced to shift to a Muslim ghetto where they lived in relative anonymity.

In 2002, a lower court in Delhi sentenced SAR Geelani to death. With the support of family and friends, both in Kashmir and Delhi, and a defence campaign organised by members of civil society, Sar Geelani and his family were rescued.. He was acquitted by the Delhi High Court in 2003, which was then upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005.Though the apex court had upheld the high court decision; it had remained “suspicious of his role”.

SAR returned to live at home, in 2004. On 5 February 2005, an unknown assassin pumped seven bullets into his body, outside his lawyer’s residence in a posh south Delhi locality. It was a sheer miracle that he survived the attack. The doctors successfully removed four bullets from his body, but they let the other three remain because pulling them out might have threatened his life.

After the attack on his life, the Indian state provided him with a security cover at the orders of the Supreme Court. Still also meant that he faced constant surveillance and could rarely go out into public spaces with his   family for the fear of attracting unwanted attention. People who visited them had to  enter their details in a notebook with the security personnel. Some people stopped visiting them .altogether.

Inspite  of  restrictions on his mobility SAR relentlessly fluttered the spark of resistance, continuing  with  his human-rights work. During his two-year incarceration at a high-risk cell in Delhi’s Tihar jail, he had witnessed first-hand the ever-lonely struggles of prisoners of conscience and their families. After his release, he set out to act on behalf of their cause, and banged every nail in the wall to pave way for avenues for legal assistance to political prisoners. Through such efforts, he not only shimmered hope for Kashmiri political prisoners languishing in various Indian jails, but many others representing a wide range of struggles for justice and dignity. He routinely travelled to big cities and small towns across India to elevate awareness about the plight of prisoners, the corruption rampant and criminalisation of the judicial system, and galvanised people into action.

In November 2008, students of Delhi University organised a seminar titled “Communalism, Fascism, Democracy Rhetoric and Reality” in Room Number 22 of the Faculty of Arts building, which was chaired by Professor  Geelani, .

Geelan’s heart was broken on 9 February 2013, when the Indian government hanged Afzal Guru, a co-accused in the Parliament attack case. The execution was widely condemned as judicial murder, in which Guru was made a scapegoat to, in the words of the Supreme Court, “satisfy the collective conscience of a nation.” Having spent a prolonged period with him during the judicial process and in prison, Guru’s death sunk Geelani’s heart. He left no stone unturned in mobilising people into protests in Guru’s name me, to the maximum capacity.. After one such event in 2016, to commemorate Guru’s death anniversary, he was again arrested by the Indian government and imprisoned for 34 days. Geelani was charged with sedition, after he had organised an event against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, days after a similar event at JNU had sparked controversy over alleged anti-national slogans that culminated in the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and two others.

Geelani’s counsel, noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, had argued that the SC’s “unfortunate observations, even while acquitting him for want of evidence, were seriously affecting both his career and social life” but the court had rejected his plea.

Students For Society (SFS) and Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) marked World Human Rights Day on December 10, 2019 by organising an event in the memory of Kashmiri activist Prof. SAR Geelani. The event was held at Gandhi Bhawan in Panjab University Chandigarh. Speaking during this event Prof. Haragopal recalled the contribution of Prof. SAR Geelani on the issue of political prisoners;

I recommend everyone to read the interview in The Wire which has been excerpted from Nitya Ramakrishnan’s book, ‘In Custody: Law, Impunity and Prisoner Abuse in South Asia It perfectly illustrates how activists are torture and humiliated, violating all social norms.. The interview illustrates merciless nature of the criminal justice system, from illegal detention by the police, the magistrate’s refusal to take cognisance of specific complaints of torture, to the medical fraternity’s collusion with police and the routine maltreatment of prisoners in jails. It also portrays  the media’s alliance  with police and state agencies when terrorism is alleged.

In ‘Human Rights in India: Historical Perspective and Challenges Ahead’ he wrote on of the mot illustrative accounts of how on December 14th, 2001,he was subjugated to captivity, torture and humiliation. He described how he was stripped naked, with hands and legs tied, beaten on countless occasions, and failed to extract a confession, from physical torture.Inspite of police yielding him to cooperate he abjectly refused, and they left him languishing in a small, filthy, dark cell.Several teams came in and out to interrogate him after he was blindfolded. His courage within captivity was death –defying, manifesting anti-fascist spirit of all political prisoners fabricated.

I also recommend reading article “The Bare life of SAR Geelani,PHD’ in Outlook magazine by Ananya Vajpayi  in January, 2022.Quoting an extract “Today it is not possible or desirable to speculate about who made an outright attempt on Geelani’s life during the shoot-out near Ms Haksar’s South Delhi residence. The point is not that this or that individual or agency tried to assassinate him, but rather, that through the deplorable sequence of events that has befallen this man over the last three years, he effectively has been rendered less than a citizen, and deprived of his fundamental rights, his legal protections, and his proper place in the body politic. What we need to understand so urgently is that if Geelani is grievously wounded (no matter who aimed the barrel of a gun at him), it is our freedom that lies bleeding at the door. This time he has barely escaped with his life, but the message is loud and clear: if we are not careful about the state of our freedom, then we will be reduced to bare life.”

Dalit Camera has also recorded a most lucid and insightful talk in October, 2020. ‘Remembering SAR Geelani: An evening with friends, family and colleagues.’

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India and extensively researched on human rights in India and Kashmir.


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News