Separatist Geelani quotes the constitution in protest to PM
1 February 2002
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Protesting against the Government’s refusal to let him and his wife travel to Mecca for Haj, hardline Hurriyat leader Sayed Ali Geelani has sent a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. However, more than the protest what has been noticed by Government circles here is the fact that Geelani, in his first personal communication with Vajpayee, refers to ‘‘constitutional sanctities,’’ to say that his rights have been denied. Geelani, who has long claimed that he doesn’t believe in the Indian Constitution, begins his letter with the salutation ‘‘may this find you in the best of health.’’ And then goes on to say that the Constitution guarantees the right to profess, practise and propagate any religion. And therefore denying him the Haj opportunity violates not only the Constitution but ‘‘even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India is signatory to.’’ Geelani and his wife Jawahira have been waiting with packed bags and high hopes to board one of the special Haj flights from Srinagar. When contacted by The Indian Express, Geelani said he has learnt that his application for a temporary Haj passport hasn’t even been processed. Asked about his doublespeak on the Constitution, Geelani said: ‘‘Yes, I don’t believe in the Indian Constitution but the person I have written to obviously does. That is why I have asked the Prime Minister to immediately restore my religious right to perform the Haj and intervene in getting my passport and papers. It is he who has to show he believes in the Constitution, not me.’’ ‘‘Any embargo on my visit to Makkah is quite unwarranted and unjustified by all cannons of law and morality,’’ his letter states. Geelani says he still hasn’t got a reply from the Prime Minister’s Office. Geelani, 72, complains that though he has performed the Haj twice before (the last was in 1995 on a temporary passport) it was obligatory for every Muslim to make the pilgrimage every five years. Geelani, who is the Chief of Political Bureau of the J&K wing of the Jamat-e-Islami and a Member of the World Muslim League, says 6,000 Hajis will be boarding the Haj charters from Kashmir this year, a majority of them on temporary passports. He too had filled up the Haj forms, and was reportedly given an assurance by Parvez Devan, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner, that he would be given permission. The last Haj flight takes off on February 12, and Geelani says he approached the PM in sheer desperation. He points out that his regular passport had been impounded by authorities in 1981 after he returned from the Haj. Since then, he says, his applications for a fresh passport have been piling up at Srinagar airport. Though Geelani doesn’t expect a regular passport, he says he’s confident of getting at least a temporary document. ‘‘The Prime Minister and the Government make claims about secularism and religious freedom, but all this is obviously a sham. I am not being allowed to perform my religious duty and it is the PM who must find a solution to the problem. Such a denial is very hurting and painful for me, ’’ he says.