Frail yet unrelenting the aging Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani deplores Pathankot and Mumbai attacks as also recent loss of lives in Siachen. He finds lure of ISIS detrimental to what he calls to be the cause of Kashmir. He spoke to Junaid Kathju at length in New Delhi about separatists’ stand where he differed with Pakistan on certain points, including move to turn Gilgit-Baltistan into another province of Pakistan. Excerpts from exclusive interview:
It has been 67 years now, but Kashmir issue has seen no progress. Do you believe that the conflict will be ever solved?
You need to understand that India’s approach towards Kashmir issue has been intransigent and unrealistic. Kashmiri people have given enough sacrifices in the past 67 years, till date six lakh people of the state have died that includes five lakh Muslims in Jammu during 1947 partition and one lakh people in the Valley in the past 25 years. At present there are 600 martyrs’ graveyards in the Valley. Even, India had not struggled this much when they were under the occupation of British rule. However, despite all our great sacrifices, India is not ready to accept the reality of Kashmir conflict; it is suffering from arrogance of power. By its military strength, it wants to deny the democratic rights of Kashmiri people. But it won’t last long.There will be a time when India has to face the reality and solve the Kashmir issue as per the aspirations of its people.
What is the best solution you see for Kashmir?
The solution is already there. Let India implement the United Nations resolutions and hold a plebiscite. Since 1948, the UN Security Council had passed 18 resolutions assuring right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The world community is its witness. However, it is India which is not willing to honour those resolutions. They know it is not in their interest.
But then India argues that UN resolutions don’t hold any significance today?
India has adopted a stubborn attitude but it did not mean that the right to self-determination had proved invalid. If that is the case then let the Instrument of Accession on which India claims Kashmir to be its integral part and which was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh against the wishes of people be irrelevant too. Why is India adopting different yardsticks when it comes to UN resolutions on Kashmir? And, moreover, it was the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru who took the Kashmir issue before the United Nations to resolve the dispute.
You are known for your pro-Pakistan stand. If we go by your stand over the years, you have always pitched for Kashmir’s integration with Pakistan. Do you still believe in the same theory, given the fact that majority of Kashmiris want an Independent State?
Kashmir was ought to become a natural part of Pakistan. It has 7000 miles of border with it and by virtue of two-nation theory it shares similar demography, topography, religion and cultural bonding with Pakistan. However, if the majority in Kashmir desires an independence State than it can also be taken into consideration.
What about Pakistan? In past few years they too seem to have changed their stand vis-a-vis Kashmir. Don’t you feel that they also want to look beyond Kashmir and move on?
You cannot question Pakistan’s commitment for Kashmir resolution. Pakistan is a compassionate country for the Kashmiris that have to face Indian aggression for supporting the Kashmir cause. The country has supported our struggle and has fought India thrice over the Kashmir dispute. They have to give up East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971 on Kashmir. However, at times when we feel that their certain decisions might harm our freedom struggle. So we intervene and ask them to correct it. I outrightly rejected General Parvez Mushrraf’s four-point formula on Kashmir and stood against him.
What about the recent proposal of Pakistan to include Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province. Don’t you feel that by doing so it gives India legitimacy to claim Kashmir?
Gilgit-Baltistan is part of a disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir and it cannot be made the province of Pakistan. When we talk of Kashmir dispute it includes all the five regions. It was not wise on part of Pakistan to take any step that can challenge the resolutions passed in the UN which is the base of our struggle for right to self-determination. I have sent a clear message to Pakistani establishment to abstain from any such move.
Recently, there was some forward moment in the peace talks between India and Pakistan. Even Modi went to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharief. However, after the Pathankot incident, things have once again come to a standstill. Do you think that for cordial talks between the two countries, such incidents should not take place?
Violence is not the solution to any conflict. At the end it’s only a peaceful dialogue that helps to resolve issues. We (Hurriyat Conference) are always against the killings of innocent people. It is not in the best interests of India and Pakistan to indulge in a war like situation. It will only deepen the already damaged relationship between the two countries. As for Pathankot attack or even for that matter 26/11 Mumbai attack, we strongly condemn it. We should value human life. In Siachen, 10 Indian soldiers lost their lives, only to protect a snow clad mountain. I hope that India shuns its arrogance and be sincere in resolving Kashmir issue amicably so that such unnecessary deaths stop.
What about United Jihad Council who took the responsibility of Pathankot attack?
I am not aware what they are up to. They can answer for themselves.
Pakistani parliamentary panel has asked its Government to avoid encouraging support to militant groups in Kashmir and take action against outfits involved in attacks there to dispel international concerns. How do you view this move?
It is an unjustified statement. Kashmiri militants are not terrorists. We should understand that why an educated youth in Kashmir is taking up arms. What prompts them to leave their families behind and sacrifice their lives for the cause? Kashmiri youth have not opted for the armed struggle just for amusement but it is the rigid and stubborn policy of India with regard to the Kashmir issue which has given birth to the situation. All pro-freedom leaders are either being jailed or put under house arrest. I have been under house arrest for the past six years. We are not being allowed to reach to the masses and put forth our point of view. In peaceful protests, the trigger happy Indian forces don’t hesitate to open fire on the crowd, killing even teenagers. In 2010 agitation, 127 innocent people were killed. Hundreds of youth are languishing in different jails booked under the Public Safety Act. There are so many examples where a youth was forced to join militant ranks due to police atrocities. If there had been a freedom of expression in Jammu and Kashmir, this situation would have never risen.
Don’t you think that in such circumstances the threat of ISIS looms large in the Valley? We are already seeing some handful of youth waving its flags during protests in the City.
I have categorically said it that ISIS doesn’t belong to Kashmir. They have no role in our genuine freedom struggle. Our religion never allows killing innocent people. They (ISIS) are maligning Islam. However, due to our (separatist leaders) confinement we are not being able to educate people about this growing menace. The onus lies on the Indian establishment.
How do you see the current Stalemate between PDP-BJP? Mehbooba Mufti has asked Centre an assurance to implement the “Agenda for Alliance” that includes involving separatist leaders in the talks on Kashmir issue?
For us (separatists), there is no difference between BJP and PDP or Congress and National Conference or any other pro-India political party. They are all occupiers who work at the behest of Government of India. Why didn’t Mufti Sahab resign if the party felt that its alliance partner BJP is not sincere in implementing the so called Agenda for Alliance? Mufti’s promises to give political space to separatists proved hoax. Soon after PDP assumed power Masrrat Alam was re-arrested and sent back to jail. Despite, Supreme Court orders which clearly states that a detainee must be lodged at the nearest prison to his home, most of our party members have been shifted to other States. We witnessed no less barbarism, arrests, innocent killings, search operations and illegal detentions in PDPs time than its predecessor National Conference. In fact, within the very first days of PDP-BJP Government, AG Noorani had written in his article that Mufti will hold CM’s chair but not the power.
If mid-term poll takes place do you think that people will again cast their votes like they did in last election? Despite your boycott calls, J&K witnessed an overwhelming turnover in 2014?
Hurriyat Conference (G) has always boycotted elections under Indian Constitution. People should realise that casting a vote for any pro-Indian political party amounts to treason and betrayal with our sacrifices and resistance. I hope that after last year’s election people must have realised it now that how they were fooled by these mainstream parties only to grab the power. People should feel duty bound to safeguard the sacrifices of our martyrs. Our first and foremost obligation is that we should boycott the elections.
In one of your interviews you have said that people have let down the on-going struggle for right to self- determination? There was severe criticism against you after those remarks. Social Media was flooded with comments. Many articles were written in local dailies in Kashmir rejecting your statement, but you never came up with any clarification. Why has it been so?
I never said that people in general have let down the movement. I was only referring to those people who casted vote in 2014 elections. But somehow my statement was generalised. I never bothered to rebut it as it was purposely done to start an unnecessary debate.
Do you feel that Separatist leaders have been honest in their role of being the true voice of Kashmiri people? In his memoir AS Dulat has written at length that how they used to pay and lure pro-freedom leaders. This includes Shabir Shah, when he was ready to become Chief Minister in 1996. He is now second- in- command in your party? In fact, in past you have also publicly spoken that how some pro-freedom leaders are playing with the sentiments of people by acting as “collaborators” with India.
I think it’s the responsibility of people to judge its leaders. There were leaders who used to recite holy Quran at the stage but later turned Kashmir into Somnath Temple by making compromise with Congress for their vested interests in 1975. Sheikh Abdullah fought for 22 years but later on called his struggle as political waywardness and still people voted for him in 1977 elections. People in Kashmir need to first introspect and then weigh their leader’s credibility. We only welcome those people in our party who give in writing that their stand on Kashmir is no less than the complete freedom from India. So, you can well imagine which leader stands where.