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Geelani Says He’s Not Indian ‘By Birth’, And He’s Not Exactly Wrong When He Says That

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By Zoya Sham:

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Kashmiri separatist leader, made a statement recently saying, “I am not by birth Indian. It is a compulsion.” [1]Predictably, this sparked a slew of criticism with many people terming the statement as ‘anti-national’. BJP and Congress leaders slammed him publically,[2] and there was much outrage on social media. His supporters even waved the Pakistani flag in approval.[3] So, what does his statement imply and why is it inviting such a strong reaction?


Geelani applied for an Indian passport recently to travel to Saudi Arabia to visit his ailing daughter. In the nationality column of the passport application form, he filled ‘Indian’. Then, outside the regional passport office, he said since his place of birth is not in India, he should not be considered as an Indian. Further, a Hurriyat spokesperson added that, “travelling on the Indian passport is a compulsion of every Kashmiri”. [4]

Geelani was born in 1929, when Kashmir was a princely state and not part of the Indian administration. However, post-1947 it became a disputed territory under the Union of India. So Geelani is partly right when he says his place of birth is not India (or was not at that time). Today, he is a separatist leader, part of the Kashmiri self-determination movement to establish Kashmir’s ‘azadi’ from India.

India was formed by the unification of several states under the British. This makes it a melting pot of languages, ethnicities and religions. The history of self-determination movements in India goes as far back as the country itself. Movements for independent recognition in the North East, Punjab (Khalistan), and Tamil Nadu have been going on for decades. However, the most prominent of these movements is in Kashmir.

Although for most ‘Indianness’ comes from embracing the diversity that is an integral part of the country, for many it’s difficult to accept being a minority in their own homeland. As the principle of a separatist agenda is secession from a nation that denies you freedom to self-determination, Geelani is justified in saying that he feels ‘Indian by compulsion’. Idris Khan, a Kashmiri businessman says, “Although I am not personally opposed to identifying as Indian, for many Kashmiris, writing their nationality on official documents feels as uncomfortable as one would to write their religion or caste – fearful because they don’t want it to be a criteria on which their character is judged – Still, it is necessary.” Therefore, in their struggle to establish an independent identity, stating their nationality as ‘Indian’ on official documents seems like surrender.

Conversely, another Kashmiri I spoke to said that by identifying as an Indian national, citizens have claim to many rights, liberties and securities provided by the state to all its citizens. So writing ‘Indian’ in the nationality column of your passport application is vital if you’re enjoying the privileges that come with that title. He further iterated that Syed Ali Geelani too enjoys security and rights provided by the state and thus might be anti-Indian in claiming to be Indian by compulsion and not identity.

Like these Kashmiris, many Indians feel detached from their ethnic identity while still appreciating the benefits of being an Indian citizen. Supporters in Kashmir argue that if superpowers like the Soviet Union could secede territory than why can’t India do the same? However, the government is fearful of these movements’ impact on national security and setting precedent for other such movements. Do you think a compromise is in order? If so, what could it be?





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  1. Sarath

    There should be literally zero tolerance for ass holes like Geelani. If he feels compelled (forced to be) to write his nationality as Indian, he should probably not write anything there at all. Kashmir is not a country and Pakistan will not grant him citizenship. So it is better he stays where he is, and eep his mouth shut about his citizenship. Actually his citizenship should be cancelled right then and he should be thrown in jail as an illegal alien right after he made this arrogant statement. These knd of seperatists are the ones who fill in poison in the minds of masses in Kashmir. They do not care if Kashmir belongs to India or Pakistan. All they need is basic human rights and right to choose their leaders which they will not find anywhere else than in India.

  2. Abhi

    India should leave Kashmir on its own device. While doing so should also revoke all the privileges they enjoy as a citizen of India. India should shut its door for every individual who wants a separate state.

    By doing so we can save our jawans from the daily torture they go through, we would save lots ofmoney poured into their(states requesting for separate identity) development like roads, schools, hospitals, dams, etc etc and also would be saved from their (separatist) constant nagging. Let them create their own army, let them fight against terrorism on their own, let them join pakistan/bangladesh /Afghanistan, let them be a victim of china land expansion movement, let them enjoy their so called freedom, let them do any ludicrous thing they want to do.

    While we all Indians can book our balcony ticket to view their self destruction by their own hands.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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