Ignored by media and politicians, Geelani’s family suffers in silence

Daughter asks why no protests have been organised in Delhi; son says father being targeted as he is a Kashmiri.

February 28, 2016 02:05 pm | Updated September 02, 2016 06:02 pm IST - New Delhi

“My father has been violated in the past and the State is after him again,” says 23-year-old Nusrat Geelani, daughter of Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani, the Delhi University professor who, too, has been charged with sedition and put behind bars like the JNU students.

For the last two weeks Mr. Geelani has been in custody for organising an event on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru at the Press Club of India.

However, unlike the furore over the arrest of the JNU students -- Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya -- Mr. Geelani’s case has failed to draw the attention of either the media or the politicians.

“Not a single protest has taken place in Delhi for my father. No one wants to talk about him. Why?” asks Nusrat.

In Kashmir, a strike was called on Saturday by separatist groups against the arrest of Mr. Geelani and the JNU students.

Mr Geelani, who is one of the vice-presidents of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners, was one of the organisers of the February 10 event, which was attended by many guests, including academics and journalists.

A day later, the Delhi Police registered an FIR against Mr. Geelani on the basis of a Zee News footage claiming anti-India slogans were raised at the event and the professor did nothing to stop that.

“But such events have been taking place since 2013. Last year, people marched on the streets against Afzal Guru’s hanging. So why now?” asks Nusrat.

On February 15, Mr. Geelani left for college around 4 p.m. His son, Atif, says they had an apprehension as JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar had been arrested from campus. Around 8:30 pm, Geelani called Atif and said that the police have detained him. “At 3 a.m., the police formally arrested him,” says Atif.

Unlike the JNU case, where all the ‘organisers’ of the Afzal Guru event are named in the police complaint, in the Press Club event, only Mr Geelani is named in the FIR.

Atif is convinced that his father has been targeted for being a Kashmiri, as he has been wrongly charged with terror links in the past too. Mr. Geelani was named as one of the conspirators in the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was acquitted by the High Court in 2003.

A native of Baramulla, Srinagar, Mr. Geelani teaches Arabic at a college in Delhi University. Ever since 2001, the first time Mr. Geelani was arrested, his family have seen several ups and downs.

He escaped death a second time on the night of February 8, 2005, when he was shot at five times outside his lawyer’s residence. “That time, his colleagues and students stood with us, financially and emotionally. But this time, people and particularly, the media, have shut the door on us,” says Nusrat.

The family has met Mr. Geelani twice after his arrest. They said they were scared for his safety after TV reports claimed Kanhaiya Kumar was thrashed in custody.

“But when we met him, we were relieved. No such thing happened to him,” says Nusrat.

Mr. Geelani’s family resides in a nondescript south-east Delhi society. His two children, Atif and Nusrat, are pursuing law, a conscious choice they made after his arrest in 2001.

“Sometimes circumstances force you to make some career choices. The only hope for justice is through the courts and we are preparing for it. My father has always fought for human rights, but today he is a victim.”

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