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BJP supporters disrupt seminar

Staff Reporter

KOLKATA: Yet another seminar organised on the controversial issue of ‘Azadi' for Kashmir, here on Saturday, was marked by frequent disruptions and noisy protests from supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who clashed with the organisers of the event, claiming that it was being used to promote anti-national sentiments.

The Seminar, titled “Azadi — the only way forward”, was addressed by S.A.R. Geelani, the Delhi University lecturer who was an accused in the 2001 Parliament attack case but acquitted later. He was also one of the organisers of the controversial October 21 seminar on the same issue in New Delhi where writer Arundhati Roy and Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani made speeches for which charges of sedition were contemplated against them.

Speaking at the seminar here, Dr. Geelani said, “The Indian State has been lying to the people of India for 63 years about what has been going on in Kashmir. This [seminar] is an attempt to acquaint the people of India with the reality of Kashmir because the oppression is being done in your name.”

On being asked if he had any expectations from the visit of United States President Barrack Obama to India next week, Dr. Geelani said that Mr. Obama knew that the conflict was one that had been hurting the interests of the people in this region and an issue that creates instability here.

“He [Mr. Obama] should use his good offices and definitely he can approach it,” Dr. Geelani said, but insisted that “the U.S.'s designs” for Kashmir were not important. “At the end of the day what matters is what the people of Kashmir want,” he said.

Dr. Geelani also defended Ms. Roy, claiming that the sentiments in her recent comments had also been expressed by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the Parliament in 1957.

There were frequent disruptions during the course of the seminar — the first of which was during the lecture of Siddhartha Guha Roy, a professor of Jadavpur University.

A member of the audience interrupted him when he was speaking about the historical context of the Kashmir dispute, stating that he had left out significant aspects.

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