For over three months now, the National
Investigative Agency (NIA) has been probing Pakistani funding of separatist campaigns in the Kashmir
Valley. While it has conducted raids across Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar looking for the money trail, NIA
has summoned people from across sections of the society in Kashmir.
These people include the Kashmir
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCC&I) head Yasin Khan, Kashmir
University scholar Aala Fazili. Among those NIA
has summoned to Delhi for a questioning are Kashmir
Bar Association President Mian Abdul Qayoom, several chartered accountants, and parents of students who studied in Pakistan. Those that were questioned and then let go include Syed Naseem Geelani
, assistant professor, Sher-e-Kashmir
University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and son of the octogenarian Hurriyat Conference
leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
“This investigation is wasting my time and affecting my career,” the junior Geelani, who says he is completely apolitical, tells Vijdan Saleem
in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What is the status of NIA’s investigation around you?
I attended the third round of investigations on September 25 at the NIA
headquarters in New Delhi.
The questioning went on for two days, after which the NIA
officials told me I did not need to visit again.
Have you ever been summoned by the NIA earlier?
This was the first time that I was summoned by any investigative agency. I attended three rounds of questioning, for which I had to travel to New Delhi.
I am an apolitical person. It is because my father is fighting for his political stand, which is contrary to the state, that I am being dragged in it.
So, do you think these as tactics to pressure your father?
Maybe. I am not involved in any case. I have no FIRs against me.
What is your father’s reaction to your questioning by the NIA? Did you speak to him before leaving?
Yes. He knows that I am apolitical but he told me to cooperate with the law agencies.
What did the NIA want to know from you? Who were the people who questioned you?
I think they were inspector-level officers and deputy superintendents, sometimes superintendents, who questioned me. They were asking me the same questions again and again. I gave them a 25-30-page written document about myself, my appointment and my bank transactions.
I told them that this investigation was wasting my time and affecting my career; I lose some crucial points as an academic. I had an opportunity to visit Ladakh with my students, but I could not go because I was summoned to Delhi. If I went there, it would have fetched two points in my scorecard as an assistant professor. I had got this opportunity after 10 years. As a student welfare officer, I could not attend the sports week, either.
Were you also questioned about the hawala funding case?
They asked me about the functionaries of the Hurriyat Conference
and the leaders who visit the Hyderprora office-cum-residence of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference
(G). I told them that it was a residence-cum-office of my father. I go there with the sole purpose of visiting my father. As I enter, I do pass the office. And if there are political people, we do exchange pleasantries. But our interaction does not go beyond that.
They questioned me about people who helped in relief work during the 2014 floods. They wanted names. I did not want to name any of them; they belonged to Masjid committees and such committees keep changing from time to time. Naming anyone would only mean dragging the person unnecessarily. I feel what we did in 2014 was social work, and that is not a crime.
Media reports suggest you were named by Zahoor Watali, a prominent businessman now in custody…
The media might be writing it, but it is far from what is happening. I do not know who gave my name or why I was called. But I attended all three rounds and gave them all the documents they asked for. I don’t know anything beyond that.
Any particular question that the investigators wanted you to answer?
They were asking me about my ideology. I told them I am against bloodshed – from any side.
Do you think the state has adopted a hardline approach since the PDP-BJP coalition came to power? How do you see the space that PDP talked about before coming to power? What is the state government’s approach to the NIA probe?
They have given them (NIA) a free hand. They are raiding every house they want. It is just shrinking the political space, if there was any to begin with.
Your family has been accused of using your father’s influence to get jobs in the state government…
There is no such case. In fact, my appointment was halted several times due to my father’s political stand. The vice-chancellor often got political pressure to halt my appointment. My father’s affiliation to the Azadi movement has been a negative for me whenever I have applied for a job. After getting rejected for two posts here in Kashmir, I removed my Geelani surname. I was appointed in the university purely on my merit.
You have been criticised for taking over the school in your ancestral village in North Kashmir’s Dooru, which your father helped build…
The school is owned by a trust. As an academician, I was asked to be a consultant for academic affairs. That was blown out of proportion and projected as if I had taken over the school for monetary gains. My father has been the patron of the school, but I was asked to supervise and advise in the academic functions because of his failing health condition. I don’t take money from the school.
Do you see yourself joining politics? If you do, will you join your father’s party? Many believe you are a natural heir to SAS Geelani?
I don’t see myself joining politics in the near future. I would want to invest my time in social work for now, apart from teaching and research.