“Kashmir Movement Is Alive”
Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq discusses at length the changing imperatives of the Kashmir Movement – economic, political, social and cultural - with GK Senior Editor Javaid Malik in an exclusive interview for GK Magazine.
Q You have been talking a lot about economic activities in the recent past. How is economy related to the resolution of K-issue?
To be honest enough we are late on it. Hurriyat Conference and the separatist leadership should have devised a very comprehensive economic policy from the day one. We were more focused on the political aspects of the Kashmir problem but in today’s world the dynamics of world politics have changed very fast. Economic issues have become as important as political issues, if not more important. The contours of the Kashmir dispute have far reaching economic overtones and undertones. Political resolution may take time but till then we have to safeguard our resources and interests. Formation of Hurriyat’s Economic Advisory Council is a step towards safeguarding our resources. We cannot act as mute spectators to the vandalization of our resources, including water and forests. There seems to be no accountability. All issues are related, even the issues of environment are very important to Kashmir’s future. The fact is that genesis of Kashmir problem lies in the political set up, but you cannot ignore the fact that Kashmir in terms of water resources is very important to India and Pakistan. What we have seen in the past that both the countries have signed many agreements over water resources but Kashmiris have been the worst sufferers of this. Waters belong to us but we have not been able to negotiate a deal. Successive regimes in JK have given the authority of our resources to both India and Pakistan. When we look at overall concept of dispute on JK in future the most important issue would be the issue of water in times to come. We feel that there has to be a comprehensive economic policy in terms of our water resources. The other issue which needs to be addressed is the cross LoC trade. The trade is not in the hands of Kashmiris today. It is in the hands of Lalas from Amritsar and Waderas from Lahore. Kashmiris have just become middlemen.
Do you feel if economic issues are addressed it would lead to the resolution of the Kashmir issue?
There seems to be a perceptional change now in terms of how India and Pakistan are moving forward. Earlier there was debate that should they talk in terms of political resolution first and then talk about other things. Probably India and Pakistan have decided to simultaneously talk about trade, Confidence Building Measures and other issues related to Kashmir. It seems they believe these measures would lead to political consensus at a later stage. That is a change we are seeing in the situation today. I would not take it to the extent that whole political problem is on back burner and economic issues are taking a lead. I would say that CBMs and economic issues can build much better trust level between the two countries. I believe CBMs can play a role in setting up of a political agenda in times to come. It seems to be a new approach and let us see what comes out of it.
You have been meeting the Pakistan leaders and bureaucrats quite often. Do you feel these meetings have served any purpose?
The main purpose of these meetings is to present Kashmiri point of view and to make Pakistan leadership aware about the ground realties. As India and Pakistan are talking it is quite evident track II and track III is going on and formal talks too are on. There is interaction going on between New Delhi and Islamabad. By meeting Pakistani leaders we present our point of view. It is important that Islamabad should have an idea about what Kashmiris are saying so that they can present our perspective in these meetings, as at present Kashmiris are not involved in talks either with New Delhi or Islamabad.
Is Hurriyat involved in track-II and track-III talks?
No, Hurriyat is not a part of track-II or track-III talks. The only thing we are expecting by the end of the year is Pugwash Conference. It has started to look into the issue again. Last month their Director was here and they wanted to have an engagement between New Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar. We are probably looking at a possibility of having a track-II interaction there.
You will be visiting Pakistan soon. What are the issues you are going to talk about?
India and Pakistan are talking and it’s important that practical measures are taken by Islamabad in order to ensure Kashmiri participation in dialogue. Indo-Pak dialogue is not enough. There has to be Kashmir participation in parleys. For that a mechanism has to be evolved and the Pakistan as an important party has an obligation in terms of making it possible for the Kashmiri leadership to be a part of the process. Our focus will be on how Pakistan would ensure the participation of Kashmiri leaders in talks.
Who all would be the part of the delegation?
We have not decided about it as yet. All I can say is that it won’t be a big delegation.
There is a notion that ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has invited Kashmiri leaders just before elections to score a point over their opponents. Do you agree?
The fact is that invitation to visit Pakistan has been pending for a long time. We have been keen to visit Islamabad for a long time but situation there has been bit difficult internally. No political party in Pakistan can take leverage out of Kashmir issue for the electoral politics. Kashmir is not like Bijli, Sadak, Pani for Pakistanis; where they feel that something better can be offered by another group. It is a very sentimental and emotional issue for every Pakistani. Time has come for Pakistan to develop a political consensus over Kashmir issue. Along with the passage of time perception in Pakistan has changed, earlier Pakistan was looking at only two options. Now they feel that there are multiple options which could be discussed and deliberated provided these address aspirations of Kashmiris. Our visit won’t be limited to ruling party we would be meeting the members of the opposition parties. We would try to see that Pakistan political parties come up with a comprehensive Kashmir policy in times to come.
Has Pakistan softened its stand on Kashmir?
Pakistan has softened its stand on Kashmir in a positive sense. Many people say that Pakistan has changed its Kashmir policy and it has taken a U-turn, but I don’t agree with them. Focus of Pakistan is primarily on Kashmir. When Musharraf came to power, and his four point formula was being deliberated there was definitely a change in Pakistan’s approach vis-à-vis Kashmir. They were looking at Kashmir not primarily from Pakistan’s interest point of view but Kashmiri interest point of view. That thought has been carried on since then. Pakistan’s policy has seen a positive shift vis-à-vis Kashmir.
Have India and Pakistan pushed K-issue on backburner?
India and Pakistan cannot push Kashmir issue on the backburner. If we look at India and Pakistan’s position today lot of things have come out in terms of realization too. There was perception in India, may be till 2010, that they can delay Kashmir solution and can portray Kashmir as problem created by Pakistan. The years 2008, 2009 and 2010 have changed the dynamics of Kashmir politics. New Delhi can no longer portray Kashmir as a problem of infiltration or an exported crisis. The situation has changed and there is realization in India that this movement in Kashmir is an indigenous movement. The revolutions in Middle East have made India and Pakistan realize that they cannot ignore issues. Over the past two or three years the internal problems of Pakistan have swelled despite that they have always supported Kashmir and it has been a part of their foreign policy.
Do you feel India and Pakistan have sidelined Kashmiri leadership?
I would say that they have not been able to provide mechanism for the involvement of Kashmiri leaders.
Is there any possibility of separatists forging unity in near future?
There is already a broad consensus on the issues like implementation of UN resolutions, tripartite talks and other issues. Let us not push it too far. At times there can be difference of opinion or difference in terms of mechanism that doesn’t mean that we have to be apologetic about unity. In any struggle there are diverse opinions. As far as separatist camp is concerned there is no ambiguity on the basic issues.
Every separatist leader claims that they are fighting for the common cause. Then what stops them from sharing a common platform?
We have shared a common platform for a long time. There are some members who have gone their own way but that doesn’t mean that they have deviated from the main path. Everybody is contributing to the struggle in his own way. If tomorrow someone tells us that resolution of Kashmir issue is ready and the only hindrance is unity among separatists we will leave our differences and sit together.
A few of your close associates are holding their own programs and rallies. What is your take on it?
You have to understand the dynamics of forum politics those are bit different from party politics. Freedom of expression along with difference of opinion is the essence of the forum politics. Members give suggestions, they have every right to do so but decisions are taken by majority or through consensus and members have to abide to these. It is not necessary that every proposal moved by any member goes through. I try to take everybody along with me but at times you have to take decisions either by majority. Hurriyat is keen to reach out to the masses and there is no harm in my close associates holding programs and rallies. They are a part of the amalgam.
Is Hurriyat (M) heading towards a split?
This is a misrepresentation as far as facts are concerned. Members have their views but that doesn’t mean that if somebody has a different view he is breaking away from Hurriyat. I, as a person would like that my view should be upheld, but that is not possible every time. We follow a democratic process to consider any proposal or view, and decisions are taken through consensus and not by an individual.
Do you think internal differences within Hurriyat (M) have weakened the conglomerate?
It is difficult to run a forum than a party. I think we have done relatively a good job to keep Hurriyat intact. When we have so many parties there can be at times clash of ideas and differences of opinion but that doesn’t mean that it has led to the weakening of the amalgam.
Hurriyat (M) has got seven members in its executive council. Is there any possibility of these members being changed or is it a permanent council?
We have a two tier system and in the last meeting we decided to continue it. This system was constituted after a lot of thought. The whole concept of the Hurriyat was taking all the parties, small and big, along. We did an amendment in Hurriyat constitution where we decided that we will have representation of General Council in Executive Council that is how Fazal Haq Qureshi came into EC. His party represents General Council in the Executive. We can debate and discuss the possibility of having permanent and non-permanent members. We can have non permanent members as the members of EC on rotational basis. These members would be elected by the General Council.
General Council members in the recent past have alleged that Executive Council doesn’t take it into the confidence. What’s your take on it?
The Executive Council is the main decision making body of the Hurriyat by the constitution but then as far as the policy decision are concerned these are taken only after taking General Council into confidence. There are some day to day issues where you don’t need to have a joint session of Executive and General Council all the time. The basic idea of the two tier system was to make things easy. It is easy for four to five people to meet and decide rather than 20 people meeting at a time. As far as policy decisions are concerned these have to be endorsed in the joint session of Executive and General Council. Now we are in the process of formation of committees. These committees would be headed by General Council members. Formation of committees would ensure that GC members are involved in Hurriyat affairs on day to day basis rather than them being involved on meeting to meeting basis. The new structure would definitely address the concerns of GC members.
Do you think that new strategy has to be adopted to keep Kashmir movement alive, as Hartal politics is losing its relevance?
Hartal is the last option. The present Chief Minister had once said that it is the battle of ideas but the fact is that it is not that battle of ideas. It is the battle of numbers and might. They have got forces and police to suppress us. The entire government machinery is trying to shrink the space for separatist politics in Kashmir. You have to understand that Hartal is the last option. I believe that Kashmir struggle has reached a stage where it is not necessary that we need to be on the streets everyday to give an impression that movement is alive. Today Kashmir movement is alive in hearts of minds of every Kashmiri that is what matters and it can take any shape tomorrow.
If you compare present UPA regime with the NDA government, which government was more keen on resolving K-issue?
It is ironical for us to say that NDA Government led by Vajpayee was keener to move forward on Kashmir. I think 2008, 2009 and 2010 had given an opportunity to the leadership of India to think, to discuss and deliberate but they chose to look on other side. The problem with New Delhi is that they only come to terms when there is a fire fighting situation. The moment they feel things are manageable and under control they tend to forget the past. This approach has to change. It is unfortunate that Army and paramilitary forces are playing a much bigger political role today.
Can you explain what are other aggressions, you have been talking about?
We don’t know how long will it take to resolve the Kashmir issue but till then we have to protect Kashmiri culture and identity. We are seeing aggression at different levels be it political, economic, social or cultural. Even our education is depicting foreign aggression we need to counter that. Education system is being thrust on our children. How many of our Kashmir children know about Sheikh Noorudin Wali (RA) and Yosuf Shah Chak! Our children are unaware about the Kashmir history but they seem to be fully aware about Indian history. We have to leave politics aside and safeguard our social fabric and our culture. We cannot remain silent over these issues. The time has come to raise the issues which concern the common Kashmiri. It doesn’t mean that we are diverting from our path.
If you are so concerned about issues concerning common man then why doesn’t Hurriyat take part in elections?
We need to change this concept that if only you are in the government or opposition you should be talking about Bijli, Sadak and Pani. Our concerns are common man and his future. We are not against the concept of elections as such, but we don’t want to lend credence to the electoral system in Kashmir where you believe in Kashmir’s accession to India as final. We are fighting against that whole system. How can we be a part of that arrangement? Elections or no elections Hurriyat would continue to talk about the issues related to Kashmir on all fronts.
Don’t you feel that separatists need to prove their representative character?
First New Delhi has to come to terms with realities in Kashmir. The question is not that whether Hurriyat represents people or not. The question is whether New Delhi is ready to give people of Kashmir a chance to determine their future. It is a bigger question. If tomorrow New Delhi accepts the right of the Kashmiri people let there be a referendum and let them hold elections under neutral observers we are willing to prove our credentials. As far as movement is concerned we don’t need to prove our credentials as Hurriyat is relevant due to people.
You have been expressing concern over burning down of shrines in the Valley. Who do you suspect is behind all this?
There is definitely a pattern. Nobody can deny that these were acts of sabotage. We need to be very cautious about the fact that who could be the elements. I am in no position to blame anybody but I am in every position to understand the whole game behind this. There is definitely an intention behind this where they want to see that Kashmiri society is fragmented. There is division among the people, there is war on shrines, Masjids and on schools of thought. We need to be very cautious on these issues and fight it collectively.
What is your take on the ongoing Amarnath Yatra?
We have always maintained that we welcome Amarnath pilgrims. Yatra has been going on for centuries and we have played hosts to yatris, but certain guidelines have to be formulated and a quota has to be allotted. I feel very sad that government has become very apologetic on the issue of yatris. If you look at the tourism related to Islamic pilgrimage vis-a-vis Makkah and Madina it is all under certain quota. If we go to Saudi they issue certain number of visas for Hajj and Umrah and they don’t go beyond that. We have to have a similar policy here. Only that many yatris should be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage which system can withstand in terms of infrastructure and facilities. Number of Yatris visiting the Valley has to be limited. The government and Shrine Board have to come with a certain policy vis-à-vis Amarnath Yatra
Unfortunate part is that whenever anyone talks about the Yatra the issue is politicized by the rightwing parties. The fact is that Kashmiris are not against Yatra and it was proved in 2010, despite Kashmir burning not a single pilgrim was touched.
No, Hurriyat is not a part of track-II or track-III talks. The only thing we are expecting by the end of the year is Pugwash Conference.
Our focus will be on how Pakistan would ensure the participation of Kashmiri leaders in talks.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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