Kashmir: Campaign & Exhibition in Support of S. A. R. Geelani
Duration: 00:23:52; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 38.663; Saturation: 0.109; Lightness: 0.380; Volume: 0.121; Cuts per Minute: 6.116; Words per Minute: 34.560
Summary: On December 13th 2001, the Indian Parliament was attacked by 5 gunmen. The NDA Government squarely laid the blame on Pakistan based militant groups, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. In the days that followed, the police arrested 3 Kashmiri men and one Sikh woman under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). While the world was still reeling from the aftermath of 9/11 and the culture of Islamic demonisation, several nations including India passed anti-terror laws which permitted the use of confessions, extracted by police authorities, as permissible evidence within courts. Not only was this an infringement of International Human Rights law, it led to unconstitutional judgements and judicial demands which led to the accused being given death sentences in what has come to be known as the Indian Parliament Attack case. The apparent logic appeared to be that the attack on the Indian parliament merited an emotionally volatile and constitutionally unhinged retribution. Thus, most notably Afzal Guru and Geelani were given death sentences.
One of the accused, Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, was a lecturer at the Zakir Hussain College in Delhi. Geelani was given a death sentence by Judge S. N. Dhingra in 2002. A group of concerned citizens and activists formed the All India Committee of Defence for S. A. R. Geelani which campaigned for his acquittal. 50,000 postcards had been sent to the Home Ministry during the campaign by citizens demanding a fair trial. The shoddy police investigation, sensationalist media reportage and nationalistic chauvinism by BJP generated a blind hysteria which overlooked the basic tenets of judicial procedures. The growth of global Islamophobia, as well as a long ongoing resistance to Kashmiri disaffection created an atmosphere where these two intersected to produce an even more acute and sinister sentiment. For further reading kindly refer to 13 DEC: A Reader which has reprints of articles and essays by Nandita Haksar, Arundhati Roy, A. G. Noorani and Nirmalangshu Mukherji.
The present video is a recording of the poster exhibition titled From Death Penalty to Acquittal: Lies of our Times
9/11 and anti-terror laws that followed it have had a profound influence on law and culture across the world. In India, for instance, POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) is said to have been drawn along similar lines as the 'Patriot Act' in America. The Committee of Defence which was formed in support of Delhi University lecturer Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani organised an exhibition as a part of public campaign to raise awareness on the nature of the climate under which Geelani had been convicted for complicity in the Parliament Attack case. Therefore the exhibits that we can see draw our attention to inane arguments FOR war against 'Islamists': Notice Donald Rumsfeld's famous 'erudite' exposition on the nature of the known knowns and known unknowns (offered as an explanation on why US charges against Iraq's weapons of mass-destruction turned out to be false), which was mocked by satirists, political humourists and stand-up comedian across the world.
LIES OF OUR TIMES:
"The message is that there are known knowns that we know. There are known unknowns that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns… things we do not know we don't know. And each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns."
-Donald Rumsfeld, on why US charges against Saddam turned out to be false.
As mentioned earlier, there are clear resonances in the inane arguments that circulated post 9/11 and those that were offered post Parliament Attack in 2001. One of the chief strengths of a democracy is said to be its constitution, such arguments (see transcript) demand the suspension of those very constitutional safeguards which are essential for the dispensation of impartial justice. These dubious arguments, (transcribed from the poster which has a young Muslim male sitting on a bench in the foreground with his back to the camera) are similar to what politicians like L. K. Advani offered by stating that those who were killed in the parliament attack looked like Pakistanis. As most people will argue that Advani might have a better chance of 'looking like a Pakistani' considering his Sindhi ancestry. Fundamentally, during the Parliament attack case, we once again witnessed poor arguments and propaganda that collapsed regional identity discourse and secessionism in Kashmir within a global demonisation of Islam.
LOGIC OF AN ANTI-TERRORIST COURT: Terrorism is the scourge of all humanity, Terrorism is sponsored by rogue states, Rogue States are mostly ruled by religious fanatics, Rogue states are despotic and fundamentalist.
Terrorists use religious fanatics and modern technology, Fanatics get financial and strategic support from Pakistan, Pakistan is waging war against India,
The attack on Parliament was an act of waging war on India.
The five men who attacked parliament were Pakistanis, They were Pakistanis because they looked like Pakistanis, Pakistan is indulging in cross border terrorism, This cross border terrorism in in Kashmir, Three accused are Kashmiris from Baramulla, Therefore the three of them are terrorists.
Terrorists are enemies of the country,
Enemies cannot be given the protection of the Constitution, Constitutional protection need not be given to Geelani, Geelani is a Kashmiri Muslim and a brilliant scholar, Educated people are hired by terrorists, Terrorists are enemies of the State, Enemies need not be given a fair trial.
It is unpatriotic to disbelieve the police of their witnesses, Even if the police are telling lies they do so in national interest, In national interest the media also suppressed the truth, It is even more anti-national to believe the defence witnesses,
Even if the defence witnesses are known for their loyalty to the Indian Constitution, National interest can be served only if people accused of terrorism are hanged. Geelani must be hanged, terrorism must be ended.
THE JUDGEMENT"It is also to be noted that all the deceased terrorists were hardly educated, their knowledge of English has been shown in the earlier paras. The note which was found in possession of the deceased terrorists giving topography of Parliament has been very neatly prepared which shows the deceased terrorists were getting active help from other accused persons. The most educated among them was S. A. R. Geelani. It is argued that Geelani was a lecturer. He was well behaved to his landlord. He could not have agreed for such an act.""There is no presumption that a lecturer cannot enter into such activity. It is a matter of common knowledge that terrorists are able to hire and convince even the best of brains also for jehad. I consider that the prosecution has successfully proved that accused Geelani was part of the conspiracy for attack on parliament." - On Dec 18th 2002 Judge S N Dhingra sentenced Syed Abdur Rehman Geelani to death. He became the first victim of India's war against terrorism.The OutrageIn Kashmir people observed a three day bandh. To protest against the death sentence. More than 20, 000 men and women of Baramulla demanded the Geelani be given a fair trial in a memo to the Chief Minister.Throughout the country, hundreds of thousands of people expressed their moral outrage, because they felt that Geelani had been sentenced to death without a fair trial. More than 50, 000 postcards were sent to the Home Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission demanding that Abdur Rehman be protected from communal hatred and blind prejudice. In a unique gesture of solidarity teachers of JNU and Delhi University wrote an Open Letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court demanding justice for Geelani. University teachers from Bangalore, West Bengal and Punjab organised solidarity meetings, passed resolutions and petitioned for a fair trial. Eminent individual, abroad and in the country, including former Chief Justice of India and Prof. Noam Chomsky also expressed anxiety over the denial of fair trial for Geelani. All these men and wome, organisations and institutions expressed their moral outrage and boldly asserted that if Geelani was given a fair trial, he would be acquitted.
We see a protestor with a poster holding a banner which reads: India using judiciary as a war weapon. We see close up shots of posters (see transcription for text) and a signature campaign. Geelani was acquitted after a successful campaign in 2003. University teachers from JNU, Delhi University, Bangalore, West Bengal and Punjab expressed solidarity with Geelani. The other notable accused in the Parliament case Afzal Guru continues to remain on death row. It has been argued by some that Geelani's acquittal confirmed views of a certain section that India was 'soft' in its dealings with terrorists. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence with the argument that following a crime of the highest order, an attack on the very sovereignty of India "the collective conscience" of the nation must be assuaged. The retributive tone of the sentence didn't provide sufficient judicial grounds for the death sentence but appeared to be in keeping with popular sentiments. Arundathi Roy and Nandita Haksar both draw attention to the role of the Special Task Force (STF) within Kashmir and with the Parliament attack case, however, there is been no judicial inquiry into the matter.
special task force
We see a poster with the caption ISLAMOPHOBIA: Mobilising Hate. A man is offering prayers in what appears to be a very big mosque with high ceilings. We then see a postcard addressed to Geelani which uses extremely foul language. The text tells us that Geelani received several such hate mails which were forwarded to him by the authorities at the Tihar jail. The image of the man at prayer, however, refers to the communal bias of the police forces some of whom would not permit him to offer namaz. Afzal Guru had a history of torture at the hands of STF (Special Task Force) The intolerance, however, is not limited to security or counter-intelligence agencies. The news media played a very significant role during this trial. Within days of his arrest Afzal was presented to the media and forced to 'confess' to the television by the police authority. Zee also produced a garish film 13 December which presumed that the accused were hand-in-glove with Pakistan based militant groups. Of course things such as torture, communal bias, hate and shoddy investigations don't make it film produced to bolster 'patriotic' sentiments.We see another poster with the image of the parliament. The text reads: The Police announced immediately that they would file an appeal in the supreme court and asserted that they would put Geelani back in death row.
ISLAMOPHOBIA: Mobilising HateWhat could make a human being write a postcard like this to someone who has been condemned to death?What makes jail authorities deliver more than 60 such hate-filled postcards to the condemned man while depriving him of the comfort of his ten year old daughter's letters?What hate and prejudice makes jail authorities deny Muslim prisoners their right to offer namaz?What kind of blind prejudice made people burn effigies of lawyers who defended Geelani and even threatened to kill any Lawyer who defended him in appeal?Has this hate and prejudice made us blind to the need for truth, justice and tolerance?
We get to see shots of the gallery set-up and the poster displays. Shots of the gallery set-up.
We see a poster with black and white images of Geelani over the last few years during the campaign for his acquittal. He is seen with various activists or at a press conference. Elated, healthy and jubilant after his acquittal with his family and Nandita Haksar. We see shots of the building from the outside and learn that the exhibit took place at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society. The event poster announces a series of dates which will see the exhibition travel through various venues in Delhi. Inside we see public viewing the posters intently.
We see a small group of individuals crowded around the poster which reads: 'Who is Abdul Rahman Geelani?' There is woman who is reading the poster quite closely. The camera cuts to another poster mocking Zee news titled 'Patriotism Zee News style'. Probably referring to the sensationalist tone of Zee News. Sanjay Kak who also appears briefly has written about his experience of translating the phone conversations for the court. In one of his interviews Sanjay has referred to this incident as the seminal moment which determined his next film Jashn-e-azadi.
trial by media
The camera cuts to a poster with the transcripts of the intercepted phone call on the basis of which Geelani was convicted. The conversation which was in Kashmiri revealed nothing incriminating. Although nothing incriminating had been said by Geelani, he was convicted on the basis of this conversation. Another poster, with bold letters in red reads Was there any evidence against Geelani? NoA Third poster with several newspaper reports juxtaposed reads: The Lies the Police Told.Once again we see Arundati Roy and Nandita Haksar.