| Geelani at the news conference. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 30: When the stubbled college lecturer stepped out of Tihar Jail and the jaws of death, the relief showed. Hours later, so did the bitterness.
Often clenching his fist and closing his eyes, Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani relived his 23-month trauma in jail and spoke out on controversial issues. “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and I am for a peaceful solution to this problem,” the suspended Delhi University lecturer said.
“If the people of Kashmir want azadi, I’m with them,” Geelani said in response to a question at a news conference he attended after his release from Tihar this noon. Delhi High Court had yesterday overturned the death sentence against the Arabic lecturer in the Parliament attack case.
As a media-wary Geelani walked out through a gate used only by the director-general of Tihar, all he could manage to say were two lines. “Well, I am happy. I never lost hope and had faith in the Almighty.” Minutes later, he was whisked away by his family members and lawyer as well as civil rights activist Nandita Haksar, who were keeping vigil outside the jail since last evening.
But he was back before the media by evening. A civil rights organisation, the All India Defence Committee, brought Geelani to the Constitution Club for the news conference.
The organisers advised caution while asking questions, reminding reporters that the acquittals could be challenged in the Supreme Court. But Geelani did not hold back sometimes.
“(The) judiciary is being politicised.... Judiciary is being used by fascists as a vehicle to further their agenda.” Asked who he was referring to, he said: “Fascists are somewhere in the corridor of power.”
Geelani said he had spent nearly two years in a cage like those found in zoos. “I have spent my days in aloofness inside a 14-foot cage. Who will return the two years that I spent in solitary confinement'”
He added that Mohammad Afzal and Shaukat Hussain, the death sentence against who was upheld yesterday, had not been given a fair trial by the special court. This had led the high court to uphold their death sentence, the lecturer said.
Lawyer Haksar and social scientist Rajni Kothari shared the podium with Geelani at the news conference. The lecturer’s wife, Quratulin Arifa, their two children and his father-in-law were also present at the packed venue.
Asked why he thought police had framed him, Geelani said the question should be addressed to Delhi police’s special cell.
He said the media played “a negative role” when the case was being heard. “If, under police influence, (the) press becomes propaganda machinery, this pillar of democracy will become hollow,” he said.
The lecturer thanked the committee, his counsel Ram Jethmalani, colleagues and Kashmiris for supporting him.
Haksar said there had been attempts on Geelani's life, including a bid to poison him, when he was in jail. The lecturer, who said he planned to resume teaching, thanked friends in jail for saving him.
Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru, whose five-year jail term was struck down yesterday, was also released today. Some relatives and friends were waiting outside the jail for Afsan, whose name was Navjot Sandhu before her marriage. “She had a difficult experience in the jail. But after her release, she looks composed and dignified,” Afsan’s lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan told PTI.