‘Past experience of dialogue with New Delhi makes me once bitten, twice shy’ [Interview]

Mir Wize Omar Farookh by Shailendra (15)
Kashmiri leader: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq/43

Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq leads the current uprising in Kashmir along with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik. He was arrested on Saturday and lodged at the Chashma Shahi sub jail on the outskirts of Srinagar. In an interview with Riyaz Wani, the Hurriyat chief expresses his bitterness about any prospect of a dialogue with New Delhi. Mirwaiz says that this time around he will be more cautious about any engagement with the Centre and also bats for the inclusion of Pakistan in any process to resolve Kashmir. Edited excerpts from an interview. 

 How long will you pursue the current protests in Kashmir?

A. There apparently seems no end in sight. As long as people and leadership can, we will.

You have sought space to carry out your political activities. But the government reasons that it will fan more unrest.

It is the state policy to ensure that no space is provided to us for any of kind political activity and our interaction with Umar Farooq, Jammu and Kashmir is curtailed in order to isolate us from them and render us insignificant. In fact, a vicious propaganda campaign is constantly on against us both in print and electronic media, where these measures are justified by the state as being imperative for maintaining so-called “peace”. This has been the policy for years now and even in relatively calmer times we are gagged, caged and confined to our homes or jails, and not allowed to move, hold public rallies, or commemorate our martyrs. Even our academic seminars are banned. I am repeatedly barred from delivering Friday sermons and offering prayers at the Jamia Mosque and so is Geelani sahib and others. Despite such curbs and bans on us, people have risen and are revolting determined to get their basic right.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a “permanent solution to Kashmir within the framework of the Constitution” and the Centre is talking of an outreach. Was there an attempt to contact you?

It is a waste of time to comment on it. The fact of the matter is if a “permanent solution” to the problem could be found “within the Indian constitution” then it would have happened by now as Kashmir has been ruled by that Constitution for the last 70 years. We would not have suffering immensely especially during the past three decades. Our fourth generation since 1947 would not have been on the streets for the past one and a half months braving bullets and pellets, being killed, blinded and maimed. The civilian population of young and old, men and women, rural and urban would not be patiently and defiantly facing the collective tyranny unleashed on them by the authorities and staying firm.

Closing one’s eyes to these ground realities and parroting the script will not lead to any breakthroughs on the issue. Mr Modi has an overwhelming mandate from the people of India. All that is needed is boldness to handle the issue head on with a view to its final resolution and the most democratic way forward is to hold a referendum and let the people decide on a meaningful engagement among the three parties to the dispute — India, Pakistan and most importantly the people of entire Jammu and Kashmir — and resolving it keeping in view their wishes and aspirations.

Kashmir is a political problem and hence the solution has to be political. It is the issue of the basic rights of people to decide and execute their political choice

Engaging Hurriyat seems more difficult now than in the past. In the newly united separatist front, some factions are bitterly against dialogue with the Centre unless on their terms and conditions.

Despite heavy odds and high risks, we entered into unconditional dialogue with both India and Pakistan from 2004 to 2006. But the way India backtracked on its commitments and abandoned it midway, the experience makes me once bitten twice shy. It led to greatly undermining the credibility of this process. Today, Kashmiris have little faith in it. Henceforth, we will tread this path very cautiously.

You want Pakistan to be a part of talks on Kashmir. Why? Is there no scope for a Delhi-Srinagar track for now?

Simply because Pakistan is a party to the dispute and a huge part of the territory is administered by them. Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in1947 is right now divided between the two countries, both of whom promised the people of the state the right to self determination in the UN, ratified by the UN. Besides, the history of bilateral agreements between either India and Pakistan or India and Kashmir has not been very encouraging, be it Shimla, Tashkent, Agra or Lahore,or Indra-Abdullah, Rajiv-Farooq agreements. For that matter even our trilateral engagement was unfruitful.

Hurriyat led by you was once a part of a tri-angular dialogue between India and Pakistan for a resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the then Pakistan president’s four point formula. Would you want a return to this process?

That could be a starting point towards the resolution of Kashmir problem any day. And that is what it exactly was even then. According to it, a referendum would be held after 10 years of its implementation. But as of now, it seems unlikely that India and Pakistan will agree.

Kashmir needs a solution. How is that possible?

Kashmir is a political problem and hence the solution has to be political. It is the issue of the basic political right of people, the right to decide and execute their political choice and will for their homeland; a right given to all nations and exercised by all nations across the world; a right, both people of India and Pakistan got in 1947 and promised to the people of Jammu and Kashmir at the United Nations, which the
U.N. ratified.

We believe the solution lies in fulfilling this promise. Another way to resolve the problem is through unconditional and meaningful engagement among the three stakeholders, that is, India, Pakistan and the main party, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, in a sincere and trustworthy environment.

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