‘Free Kashmir’ will allow liquor consumption: Geelani (Roundup)

October 22nd, 2010 - 12:39 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, at a seminar repeatedly disrupted by Kashmiri Pandits, said Thursday the sale of liquor would be allowed in an “independent” Jammu and Kashmir where Islamist militants have banned alcohol since 1989.

Speaking at a seminar ‘Azadi - The Only Way’, Geelani, who flew in from Srinagar, also ruled out any dialogue with the government or its nominated interlocutors saying talks without the right to self-determination were “useless”.

Minorities in an “independent Jammu and Kashmir” would enjoy secular rights, maintained the octogenarian leader.

“The system of justice in an independent Jammu and Kashmir would be such that even liquor would not be banned for non-Muslims. It would be prohibited for the Muslim majority but if minorities feel they want to have liquor they would be allowed to consume as their right,” he said.

The sale and consumption, even though legally allowed, has been socially banned in Kashmir Valley since 1989 when Islamist insurgency erupted.

Muslim clergy and moral vigilantes have been on a mission to stop liquor in Kashmir since then. Militant outfit Allah Tigers had issued a blanket ban on alcohol. Many liquor shops were ransacked and looted, forcing them to shut down.

The ban is still in vogue and it is for the first time Geelani, a hardcore Pakistan supporter and believed to be a fundamentalist who has his roots in rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami, has spoken in favour of liquor sale in the Kashmir Valley.

Unruly scenes were witnessed at the LTG auditorium venue when protesting Kashmiri Pandits heckled the two and tried to prevent them from speaking.

Heavy slogan-shouting was heard in the jam-packed auditorium for some time at the nearly seven-hour seminar.

Geelani also ruled out any dialogue with the team of interlocutors appointed by the government.

“All previous dialogue processes with India have failed, and we have held some 150 rounds of talks since 1947 without solving the issue. I request all Kashmiri students and traders associations to boycott them,” the separatist leader.

Geelani reiterated his position that the Kashmir issue could be solved only through the right to self-determination and the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be given a chance to determine their fate. “Whatever the majority wills will emerge from the plebiscite and would be acceptable to all,” he said.

The three-member apolitical team of interlocutors comprises academic Radha Kumar, journalist Dileep Padgaonkar and former information commissioner M.M. Ansari who were appointed Oct 13 to talk to all shades of opinion in the state.

Thousands of people have died since insurgency began. While things were beginning to look up last year, the state was plunged into a fresh crisis after stone-pelting protesters started clashing with the security forces. At least 110 people have been killed in the ongoing unrest since June 11.

Earlier, author-activist Arundhati Roy asked the Kashmiri leadership if they had thought enough over “what kind of a society you have been fighting for”.

“You need to be clear about it. Otherwise you will be like fish swimming furiously and bombing the walls that are too strong till you get tired.”

Geelani said the Kashmir society would be inclusive and asked Pandits who fled the valley in 1989 at the start of the armed separatist campaign to return.

“Muslims who form a majority will provide security to them (Pandits) in case they make up their minds,” he said.

“Dogras (from Jammu) and Buddhists (in Ladakh) are an important part of the state like Pandits.

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