SRINAGAR – All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that Kashmir is neither a ‘jugular vein’ nor is it an ‘integral part’ of either Pakistan or India. “It’s neither a part of India nor of Pakistan,” he said.
In an interview with India’s The Hindu newspaper, Mirwaiz said that there was a need of a new political initiative. “A positive start has been made with Pakistan. But there has to be a serious effort to address the Delhi-Srinagar trust deficit and take a holistic approach,” he said, adding that the Hurriyat can be a bridge vis-à-vis Delhi-Srinagar-Islamabad if India wants to reach out.
About Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India, the Hurriyat leader revealed that he approached Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi and requested him not to arrange any meeting at this juncture. “Let Pakistan and India take the (peace) process forward. We don’t want to play spoilsport, that everyone says Pakistan and India met for a special occasion and now Hurriyat has come and spoiled the occasion,” he said.
“Let them build a process of engagement, not chance meetings at the UN or SAARC. Let them have regular meetings of the foreign ministers (of Pakistan and India), a full-fledged process of engagement. Let Delhi-Srinagar-Islamabad and Muzaffarabad too come to the table for a regular process,” he suggested. About participation in election, he said that anyone who gets elected, they have to accept Kashmir’s ‘accession’ to India as final. “Obviously we challenge that. Our whole movement is based on the dispute of Kashmir,” he said.
“We have said for a while, let Pakistan and India allow the five regions of Jammu Kashmir to start talking to each other. Do it now, before there is a different situation, that the problems in Pakistan increase, or that there is a backlash from Afghanistan, before there is more violence here,” Mirwaiz said. “In Kashmir, we don’t want to be a ground for experiments, or any movement that would have a different agenda from ours,” he said with reference to new insurgencies in Iraq and Syria.
“As a religious head, I will say the problem of Kashmir is not religious; it is not a problem of Hindus vs Muslims; or a Muslim Kashmir vs a Hindu India. It is a political problem. It is not about waging jihad. The problem has religious undertones, but it’s a political problem,” the Hurriyat leader said. “Our position is that there must be an attempt to re-unify all five regions — not just the areas under Indian control but also those under Pakistani control,” he said.
About four-step formula first agreed to during the Musharraf-Manmohan dialogue, he said that it’s a very good start and the Hurriyat has always welcomed the idea of the four-step… for both Pakistan and India… If they take a more holistic approach towards Kashmir… not an administrative or law and order problem, or an economic problem. “I think if Mr Narendra Modi wants to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan, he must also reach out to Kashmir,” he said.
“We see two ways forward. Either you allow a referendum or a plebiscite as India had promised. Or you allow a substantive dialogue between all parties. Let the final solution be an outcome of the process. You can’t start with the Line of Control as the final outcome,” he said. The Hurriyat leader said that the problem was that most people in the (Indian) government think Kashmir problem was a creation of Pakistan, of Islam, of extremism.
“But even by India’s own legal standards, there is a dispute in Kashmir. India took the problem to the UN, discussed it at Shimla, so people in India have to understand this is not just another problem like Naxalism,” he said. The Indian government should not mislead people into thinking it was only about militancy, that this was a security problem, he said. “Our wish is that they should walk steps of Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee, as the former Indian prime minister had a better understanding of the problems. When he spoke of humanity, he was looking at ways and means of giving it a human touch. That human angle is now missing,” he said.
Recent statements of the Indian government and the ruling party have been divisive, the Hurriyat chairman said, adding that they want to divide and fragment Kashmir. “There is no doubt that we want Kashmiri Pandits to return, whether Kashmir is separate or not, they have a right to come back. But the fact is the way they are dealing with this problem, creating ghettos, cutting them off from mainstream Kashmiri society, which is not going to help,” he said.
“We were hoping this government will look to rectify the mistakes of past governments, but it seems they want to go back to the old policy of following a security approach rather than a political approach,” he said. “If you look at the last 10 years of the Congress-led government, we felt it was all a waste. They had many opportunities, with Pakistan, with leaders here to move forward. Cross-LoC initiatives could have been built up, but rather than that, it’s more a politics of division,” he said.
“Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh are at loggerheads with each other. Wahabis, Barelvis, Salafis are all pitted against each other. I think it’s part of the strategy to pitch us against ourselves,” Mirwaiz said. “As a religious leader, I am worried about what is happening in Kashmiri society. The mosque used to be the centre of all social activity. Today that mosque is divided — Barelvis, Wahabis, Deobandis… I think a lot of money is coming from India, but also I do think money is coming from Saudi Arabia to propagate a divided society,” he said.