''Freedom struggle'' going on in Kashmir: Umar Farooq
16 December 2002
: With no breakthrough in the strained relations between New Delhi and the separatist camp in Kashmir, the leaders in the camp have hardened their stand. Today it was the turn of the former Chairman of the All- Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who asserted that a ''freedom struggle'' was going on in Kashmir. He welcomed the steps taken by the Mufti Government in minimising the people''s sufferings. In an exclusive interview to The Hindu , the Mirwaiz said: ''it is a people''s movement and the Askariat (militancy) here is no terrorism. They are not terrorists. The Hurriyat was ready to talk to the Mujahideen to persuade them to stop their activities in case the Government of India (GOI) started a purposeful dialogue with Kashmiris and Pakistan to resolve the issue. ''We will persuade them to lay down arms and will then address the Indian concerns as well.'' Showing flexibility in the Hurriyat''s stand on a dialogue, the 29-year-old Mirwaiz (head priest) of Kashmir said the alliance was even ready to talk to the Jammu and Kashmir Government. (In the past, the Hurriyat refused to recognise any State Government). ''If they come (the Mufti Government) with a concrete proposal on resolving the Kashmir problem, I do not think there should be any problem to talk to them,'' he said adding ''if they are sincere they should persuade the GOI to start a dialogue with the separatists. We welcome the steps taken by the Mufti Government, as we believe that whosoever emerges as a well- wisher of the Kashmiris should be appreciated.'' The Mirwaiz said the State Government had taken some steps to mitigate the people''s sufferings but ''we are still monitoring the developments''. He, however, reiterated the Hurriyat stand that elections were no ''substitute to the real issue in Kashmir and India should stop projecting the election results as the end of the game in the State.'' The Hurriyat, he said, was ready to talk unconditionally to the GOI as well provided it accepted that talks would be held with Pakistan also to resolve the issue. It was not necessary to remain stuck on tripartite talks and talks could begin first between New Delhi and Kashmiris and then with Pakistan. ''We want to break the ice but the GOI is rigid in its stand,'' he said referring to the Hurriyat''s talks with the Kashmir Committee headed by Ram Jethmalani. ''We support them as they are playing their role in achieving something. It can work as a pressure group also.''