Nothing Wrong With ‘Azadi’: Wajahat

Nothing Wrong With ‘Azadi’: Wajahat

12 March 2012
Greater Kashmir
Anil Anand

New Delhi: National Minority Commission chief Wajahat Habibullah finds nothing wrong with the usage of word “Azadi” (freedom), arguing that the Indian Constitution guarantees it for every citizen of the country. “I object to those who take objections to the use of word 'Azadi'. Freedom is the fundamental right of every citizen, guaranteed to us by none other but the Constitution of India,” Habibullah, a retired IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre, said here today. Addressing a convention on “Democratic Rights of Kashmiri Youths,” organized here by the Centre for Policy Analysis, he said that Kashmir is passing through a state of stress. But there is also a window of opportunity which should be used for seeking redressal of problems. The convention was attended by a number of Kashmiri youth studying in various educational institutions in the Capital. Many of them who interjected during the deliberations said that nothing short of right to self-determination will satisfy the Kashmiri youth and complained about the total apathetic attitude of both the Centre and the state governments towards them. Wajahat contended that the people of the valley were demanding greater democracy as part of a movement which is taking India ahead of the world. “If you demand greater democracy, you are not demanding anything anti-national. You are demanding to be part of a movement which is taking India ahead of the whole world and India can be proud of its citizens,” Habibullah said. He rued that people of Kashmir could not enjoy their basic rights due to 20 years of violence. “Unfortunately, Jammu and Kashmir is not enjoying that (basic rights). There is a history of it why it has not happened that. We had 20 years of violence. We had the international conspiracy and all this,” he said. Expressing his optimism, he said under the present situation in the state, 'the time is now ripe to move in the direction.” While elaborating on the benefits of Indian democracy, Habibullah said, 'I am not wishing to exchange my citizenship of India with any other country because I consider myself to be a free living in this country.” The convention strongly advocated revocation of the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). Fully supporting this demand Wajahat said that the PSA is not needed anymore. “You cannot have an undemocratic law, make some cosmetic changes and continue with it,” he said. Questioning the continuation of PSA, he asked: “When TADA and POTA had been abolished, why continue with the PSA.” A Kashmiri youth Umer Gul said that AFSPA and PSA are not the core issues which he felt is the “right to self-determination”. The Government must the address the core issue of Kashmir which needs a political solution. He rejected Wajahat’s suggestion to forget past. Civil Rights activist Prashant Bhushan said that the Government has given total immunity to the armed forces by keeping in force the AFSPA. The human rights violations have increased as a result of this immunity. What is the justification behind continuing AFSPA and PSA, he added. CPM legislator M Y Tarigami said that Kashmir problem essentially pertains to human dignity and fundamental rights of Kashmiris are being ignored. “We the people of Kashmir have grievances and the Government is insensitive and committed to only its stated positions on related issues,” he observed. Intervening in the debate, senior journalist Seema Mustafa said that a level playing field is needed to discuss and resolve the Kashmir problem. She appealed to the Kashmiri youth to work in this direction and not seek to any pre-condition in the form of right to self-determination and allow the debate on Kashmir related issues to be broadbased. She blamed the Government for “completely isolating” the Kashmiris from rest of the country through pursuing wrong policies. The convention passed a resolution demanding de-militarization of Kashmir, withdrawal of AFSPA and PSA, immediate investigation and action against the security personnel responsible for the deaths of the students in police firing in 2010, investigation of the large scale disappearance of Kashmiris and release of Kashmiri youth languishing in jails outside J&K. It further demanded the Centre and the state governments should take steps to stop undue harassment and stereotyping of Kashmiri youth. CPI MP D Raja, Lok Jan Shakti Party leader Sanjay Saraf and CPM MP M V Rajesh also spoke.