On February 17, a group of officials from the RAW and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) walked into Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani's detention cell and asked him to explain his position on the Kashmir issue. Booked on sedition charge on February 16 for co-hosting an event at the Press Club of India to commemorate the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, Mr.Geelani was surprised to see that the intelligence officials were more keen on knowing where he stood on Kashmir than what transpired at Afzal Guru's memorial.
“The Press Club event was their least concern,” he said, adding that in case of Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU student leader who was also arrested on sedition charges, it was just Delhi police that investigated the matter. “In my case, the entire Home Ministry was involved. I wonder why?” he asked.
Mr. Geelani's past has the answer to his own question. He was arrested in the 2001 Parliament attack case and spent 22 months in jail, where he said he was physically tortured and then sentenced to death by a fast-track court. But Delhi high court found no evidence to connect him to the Parliament attack and he was acquitted of all charges. The Supreme Court upheld his acquittal. Three years after he was released, he had a close shave with death on February 8, 2005. Unknown assailants pumped five bullets into his body outside his lawyer's office in Vasant Vihar. “Even today, three bullets are still inside my body while two were taken out,” he said smilingly.
Sitting relaxed in his recently renovated drawing room, Mr. Geelani, who was released on Monday on bail, isn't very worried about his latest case. “See, there is nothing against me. I have fought bigger battles in the past and this shall too pass.” He maintains that no slogans that can be considered 'anti-national' were raised. Bharat ki Barbaadi slogans were not raised.”
Sharing his views on the ongoing debate on nationalism, dissent and freedom of speech, the professor said that free speech and the willingness to discuss uncomfortable ideas were under threat. “It is the present government which is on the path of Bharat ki Barbaadi . They are destroying India.”
Describing his case as another attempt to scare him, he said that what he has gone through in the past has made him stronger. “This time, I was deprived of sleep for more than 36 hours. My blood pressure shot up and the doctors told the police to let me take rest else it will take a toll on my health,” he said. After his classes got over on February 15 in Zakir Hussain Delhi College, Mr. Geelani with his police escort was on his way back home. He stopped at a petrol pump to get fuel and “suddenly some men dressed in plain clothes gheraoed my car. My security escort took out his gun but I had asked him to stop. After that they took me to some basement in Haiderpur area instead of Parliament Street police station. I was kept there the whole night but not interrogated,” he told the Media .
After he was moved to Tihar Jail, he was kept in High Security Ward — Jail number 1. He is convinced that because his case attracted media attention and was a 'high-profile' case, he wasn't subjected to any police harassment. “Sometimes, me and police officials used to informally discuss the Kashmir issue.”