‘Talks are the way forward’

Kashmir Magazine

The Kashmir Magazine Correspondent, Hamid Rather spoke to Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on issues confronting Jammu and Kashmir from policy of Modi-led government to squeezing of the political space for Hurriyat leadership, alarming drug addiction rate in youth to Kashmiri Pandit rehabilitation.








Excerpts from the interview



Q) Your views on the present political scenario in Kashmir and emergence of Modi 2.O?



The genesis of the present situation has deep roots in the past three tumultuous decade of the 72 year old Kashmir conflict. It has gone through various phases with one thing remaining constant people’s deep desire for resolution of the conflict in accordance with principles of justice and humanity. We have seen that muscular policy cannot succeed in suppressing that desire. We and the people whom we represent want a peaceful resolution, bloodshed and tragic loss of life on a daily basis in this conflict is distressing to us and is unwarranted. We have always supported sincere efforts of governments of India and Pakistan for addressing the problem and helped in creating an atmosphere of peace conducive for that process.


Having taken part in the extensive talks under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership in 2004 we were hopeful after 2014 that Modi-led NDA government will revisit the resolution initiative of Atalji, Infact when Mr Modi became PM at that time we welcomed it with the hope that he will take it forward. However, that was not to be so. NDA Government instead adopted a purely muscular approach to quell those aspirations and sentiments of people of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2019, BJP along with its allies has won a major mandate and Mr Modi has started his second term as the Prime Minister of India. I have said that this mandate gives him the power and opportunity to take bold decisions and help in the resolution of the lingering Kashmir issue once for all.


Hurriyat Conference has time and again said that Kashmir is a political problem that needs to be addressed politically. Muscular approach can be no alternative. The fallout of the muscular approach is serious human rights violations and further alienation of the young generation who feel suffocated and some among them unfortunately take to arms as a reaction..We can only hope that this outlook changes.



Q) The Government of India seems to have been adopting an unbending approach towards Kashmir’s separatism. BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav said on record that Hurriyat has no mandate to dictate terms if talks are held with it. Your response please?


The shrinking of all political space to political forces In Kashmir representing people’s sentiments including to the youth to democratically and peacefully raise their voice we believe is the main reason for the current situation in Kashmir. When dialogue and engagement is used as a means of conflict resolution the idea is to understand the concerns and interests of all stakeholders in order to address those concerns and needs for reaching a resolution. In such a process there is no scope for dictating terms from any side. When Vajpayeeji first visited Kashmir he also talked tough he talked of developmental projects to sideline the political question but in the course time during his last visit to Kashmir he stressed that ‘cooperation and coordination between the stakeholders’ can pave the way to the vexed Kashmir problem and initiated the dialogues process with Pakistan and Hurriyat . Since 1947 four generations of Kashmiri’s have been consumed in the conflict in one way or other and yet we are all stuck where we were. India Pakistan and people of J&K. Alienation has increased the desire for resolution is stronger today as the youth are more aggressive and there is fear that things may further deteriorate and get out of control.


Q) NC and PDP leadership is also talking about dialogue and engagement what's your take on that.


There is unanimity among all Political parties including NC PDP and others that contest elections in Jammu and Kashmir as there statements repeatedly reflect, that admit that Kashmir is a political dispute that has to be resolved politically and in this regard they have also been strongly advocating dialogue among all stakeholders. I think all political forces should unite in pushing harder for this demand.




Q) BJP has categorically mentioned its agenda of scrapping Article 370 and 35A in its election manifesto. How will Hurriyat Conference respond if BJP takes any such steps in actual and scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir?



This is an obvious challenge that leadership of the state may face in the near future. This time all the political leaders across party lines and political spectrum are feeling the heat of this unprecedented anti-Kashmir step being proposed by BJP towards eroding the constitutionally guaranteed special status of the state, with a view to change the demographic character of the state . I think the best way to face this challenge is unitedly. All parties should work in tandem with cooperation and coordination. If any such step is taken by BJP that erodes the identity and constitutional status, every segment of public and leaders across political ideologies will become the part of a mass agitation.



Q) In Kashmir’s mainstream politics, there is plethora of political groups that have emerged recently. There are apprehensions by many quarters that this could be a ploy to fragment the mandate and make BJP a kingmaker in state politics. What are your views on this?



Hurriyat is a coalition of political forces that represent the sentiments of people for a political resolution of the internationally acknowledged Kashmir issue. I believe they will have to take a call on how to collectively meet the challenge thrown up in the current circumstance to safeguard the character of the state. But these political parties have a history that once in power they represent New Delhi in Kashmir rather than work for preserving Kashmir interests. They have to assure people on this account.



Q) Recently, Governor Malik has said that we are ready to talk with Hurriyat. Later there were no followings? Is there any hope about breaking of the ice in anyway?



The constitution of Hurriyat Conference advocates that Kashmir dispute should be solved either under international agreements or by talks among all stakeholders. A framework for dialogue was put in place and agreed upon when Vajpayeeji talked of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat’ and introduced the element of ‘insaniyat’ in talks beyond the constitutional provision. Under that framework, we visited New Delhi and Islamabad and held several rounds of talks. This established framework is still three to pursue from. It is the government of India that can take this initiative. Deputation of interlocutors or appointment of special committee to talk to different sections of people have not yielded much as the issue needs to addressed on the political level. Besides even their recommendations were not accepted.


As far as Mr Malik’s statements are concerned it is best to ask him about it . As head of the government in J&K right now his statement carries weight and value and there must be reason for him to have said so. Talks are the way forward.




Q) Will Hurriyat Conference join the talks if offered?




Hurriyat Conference has always advocated talks and is ready to join result oriented talks at political level.



Q) Do you think post-Pulwama skirmishes have softened Pakistan’s approach towards Kashmir?



PM Imran Khan since assuming office has reached out to Indian leadership and repeatedly asked GOI his talks. Infact his government in press says that they are ready to talk on Kashmir terrorism and all other crucial issues.


The unfortunate Pulwama incident and then elections in India have so far prevented any meaningful engagement to take place. When in 2005 we visited Pakistan, we also met Imran Khan Sb who categorically said that a middle path has to be found in resolving this issue as per the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiri people. I think the sincerity of PM Imran Khan and his establishment for resolution is very much there. Yes the issues that you mention mostly economic distress has put Pakistan in a tight spot and attention has got focused on it.


But PM Khan’s offers for talks cannot be avoided by India for too long. Sooner or later both India and will have to talk Kashmir. The fast changing geo political Situation in the region will also be a catalyst.



Q) NIA has stepped up its activities in Kashmir and even you recently were questioned by the agency in New Delhi. Tell us what do you think about these activities?



It is a pressure tactic to weaken Kashmiri leadership and intimidate people psychologically. Efforts are on to strengthen this institution in the state, so as to use it exponentially against dissenters. Not only Hurriyat leadership but all segments of Kashmiri society including activists journalists businessmen students are being persecuted. The idea is to link people’s political struggle for their political rights and justice under international agreements with aiding and abetting terrorism to bring it under the rubrics of terrorism. It is not a new thing to Kashmiris.


What government has to realise is that Hurriyat is a creation of the sentiment not the other way round. By persecuting and maligning Hurriyat the struggle and sentiment will not finish off. Kashmiri’s know what is going on.



Q) Government claims that NIA raids have exposed the traders and Hurriyat leaders who were financing anti- national activities in Kashmir. What are your views.



It is an attempt to create pressure and terrorise public by the sensational statements from New Delhi.


Hurriyat was established as a political force in 1992 and its objective is to work towards the peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute politically. Hurriyat is purely a political agency that seeks a political resolution and does not advocate any other mode or support it.



Q) There is a new opinion in the making among the think tanks which is that the present violence in Kashmir is linked to the Global militant outfits like ISIS. What did you think about this new notion?



Such groups can exploit the situation. But it is a fact that Kashmir issue is a part of some global agenda or linked to any such groups. It is an indigenous political movement that has a political and historical context history under international resolution at the UN. Because of muscular and military approach of those in power youth can be pushed to such ideology which will be a great concern for all.



Q) BJP said that Hurriyat has become irrelevant in the wake of no strike call given by JRL during the visit of Union Home Minister, Amit Shah to Kashmir valley? What is your response?



If Hurriyat has become irrelevant then there should be no need to persecute them. As I said Hurriyat represents the aspirations and sentiments of people of Kashmir. It’s a creation of that. Hurriyat is recognised internationally and as representative of the people of Kashmir it has taken part in dialogue both with New Delhi and Islamabad who recognised it.




Q) Critics said that JRL should refrain from Strike calls as it hurts the economy and overall development of Kashmir valley. What are your views?



I agree. Hartal has a dampening effect on people as well the economy and education in Kashmir valley. But as all modes and means of public outreach or protest against human rights violations and anti people moves like the current highway ban are disallowed.