Kashmir’s Hurriyat Leader Says Azadi Not A Solution

Kashmir’s Hurriyat Leader Says Azadi Not A Solution

8 January 2013
Tehelka
Baba Umar

Srinagar: Maulana Abbas Ansari, a powerful Shia cleric, is the head of a religious group, Itehad-ul-Muslimeen (Unity of Muslims) – a constituent of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) headed by moderate separatist leader Mirvaiz Umar Farooq. Recently, the group went to Pakistan – a visit it declared ‘successful’. In a freewheeling interview, Ansari says the options of Azadi, Pakistan, or India are not solutions to the Kashmir dispute anymore. Many Kashmir observers and hard-line separatist leaders say the Hurriyat (M)’s Pakistan visit was a ‘futile exercise’. What happened there? Who did you meet and what is Pakistani leadership thinking about Kashmir? Our plan was successful. We met a lot of people. In the past, we would meet ruling politicians but this time we met opposition members and many other stakeholders. We are happy to find there is a general consensus in Pakistan that the Kashmir tangle needs to be resolved. Hurriyat (M) pushed for trilateral talks because Kashmiris are the prime party of the dispute. It was good to see a positive reaction from Pakistanis across all divides. Pakistan is ready for trilateral talks on Kashmir. The situation in Pakistan is changing and relations between New Delhi and Islamabad are good these days. Our visit was aimed at telling the Pakistani leadership to agree for a trilateral dialogue. CM Omar Abdullah says Hurriyat should also meet New Delhi for a lasting solution on Kashmir? What stops Hurriyat from initiating talks? We can’t invite or propose talks with New Delhi. This time, it was Islamabad that sent us the invitation. Let New Delhi invite us for talks, we will happily accept it. Last time, too, we met PM Manmohan Singh, but only after New Delhi’s invitation. At the time though, hurdles were created by New Delhi. They wanted to speak to boatmen, mechanics and shopkeepers of Kashmir. Hurriyat said a dialogue of such a level cannot mature into success like this. You have been often saying that Hurriyat is not scared of polls. Can you elaborate? What kind of polls do you want Kashmiris to witness? I was never scared of fighting polls. People are with the Hurriyat (M). But the elections should take place under the auspices of SAARC. India and Pakistan should have no control over these polls. Those fighting elections in the Pakistani side of Kashmir contest under Pakistani constitution, with the pledge ‘Kashmir Banega Pakistan’. Here also, a leader needs to take oath under the Indian Constitution to contest polls. I believe it shouldn’t happen. Hurriyat will contest polls on both sides, but there should be no Indian or Pakistani influence. Let SAARC monitor it along with two representatives of either sides of Kashmir. Hurriyat isn’t scared of polls and guarantees a win if such conditions are met. And what if you win? Is fighting polls and Hurriyat winning the ultimate solution to the Kashmir dispute? No, but it’ll make Hurriyat the main stakeholder and we could solve the Kashmir dispute in a manner that will be acceptable to Srinagar, Islamabad, and New Delhi. Together, not only will we talk about this side of Kashmir, but the one under Pakistani control too. That makes it perfectly trilateral. But Pakistan also wants a mediation by the US on Kashmir? How do you see it? I oppose any such move. The US can’t be trusted. Even in 1971, the US backstabbed Pakistan. I don’t want any US mediation on Kashmir. But some time back, you wanted Iran to play a mediator’s role and use good influence on both friendly countries? When the Shimla agreement was signed, one of its clauses said that the Kashmir issue will be solved bilaterally. Unfortunately this time, India says it’s willing to talk on Kashmir but the one under Pakistani control. Pakistan, too, says it was talking about the Kashmir under Indian occupation. At the time, they should have made Iran (a friendly country to both sides) a witness of the agreement. I have been saying it for long. But now we don’t want Iran to mediate. Iran has lost influence on India because of the US again. Iran won’t be in a position to convince India or Pakistan for a solution. Only Pakistan, India and Kashmiris can solve the Kashmir issue. What kind of solutions do you offer for Kashmir? Do you want Azadi, complete merger with Pakistan or India? I want Pakistan and India to stay sincere. There should be free visits to either Kashmir(s). Kashmiri forces should manage the border, not the armed forces of both India and Pakistan. Any solution should be acceptable to the people of India, Pakistan and Kashmir. But I believe if people are asked to choose an option, they’ll definitely vote for Pakistan. Is it your solution as well? No. It’s not. There should be some unique solution. I don’t think Azadi is a solution. Neither is Pakistan or India. It will divide Kashmiris into three entities. Many will vote for Azadi, some will vote for Pakistan and some India. I think former Pakistan president Parvez Musharaff’s four-point formulae could be the solution of the dispute. So you don’t think these three options could end the Kashmir conflict? No. I think all sides should sit and find a unique solution. Whatever is acceptable to people of all three parties. Azadi, Pakistan and India options will only result in dividing the Muslims of Kashmir. Pro-Independence leader Yasin Malik recently recalled how the Iranian revolution had inspired Kashmiri youth to rise up for their fundamental rights. He believes unending atrocities by armed forces can again trigger armed revolt of a greater intensity. Do you support armed rebellion? Guns have no role. I never supported it. Guns don’t offer solutions. But Hurriyat (M) didn’t support the ceasefire and talks proposed by Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in 2000. Hurriyat had disowned Delhi-Hizb talks. Isn’t it? I didn’t oppose it. In fact, Hizb withdrew the ceasefire. Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin and you were at loggerheads again recently when you supported panchayat and BDC polls? People visit MLAs or contest such polls only for their basic needs. We should be solving those basic issues, but we can’t. We can’t build roads, water networks, and bridges for people; we cannot provide them electricity. We can’t stop people from asking for their basic needs. What if people demand these amenities from us, or Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin? Where will we get electricity, water or roads? We are not masters of our Kashmir’s resources. We are living under subjugation. Shias are not allowed to carry out religious processions. The government says militants will harm us. But I take the responsibility if any such incident occurs. I tell them when Hindus can perform amaranth pilgrimage and carry out religious processions, why is the government stopping Shias. Ashura is a religious procession and not a political procession. This is the repression we live in. Are Kargil’s Shias with the Hurriyat? They rarely observe strikes on your call. Many say they are not even with the pro-Azadi camp? That is not true. A lot of Kargil Shias, who have relatives on the other side of Kashmir, come to see me. I write reference letters for them and they easily get passports and visas, which they use to travel to Pakistan. Kargil Shias are with us. But they face many problems. There is no development there and they remain cut off for very long every year. You are often blamed for disuniting the undivided Hurriyat. During your chairmanship, Syed Ali Geelani demanded expulsion of People’s Conference for allegedly fielding proxy candidates in 2002 assembly elections. You supported Bilal Lone and Sajjad Lone then and later Geelani would prove right when Sajjad Lone contested polls. Do you regret that decision? Didn’t your indecision undermine Hurriyat unity? No one has worked for Hurriyat’s unity and Shia-Sunni unity like me. But I can’t stop anyone from fighting polls. I have a cousin brother (Maulvi Iftikhar Ansari). He contests polls for PDP. Does that mean I stop calling him as my brother? I introduced him to politics. I can’t stop people from fighting polls.