Greater Kashmir


Islamabad, Apr 13: Did Muhammad Yusuf Shah become Sayed Salahuddin, the supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, and the face of Kashmir’s armed resistance, just because the elections he fought under Indian constitution in 1987 were rigged?
 This question has become part of the election polemics particularly in the struggle for power between People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference. This question has also become part of the global discourse on Kashmir— Muhammad Yusuf picked up Kalashnikov because democracy was not allowed to flourish in Kashmir.
 Salahuddin rejects this debate as ‘typical election politics’. In an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir in the Hizb Media Centre here, the Hizb supreme commander talked about the 1987 elections and several other contemporary issues.
1987 elections
 It is absolutely wrong that I picked up arms because the elections were rigged. Muftis are giving the election results a wrong twist. I was a freedom fighter long before I fought elections. I have inherited this from my forebears. My brother, Sayed Ghulam Muhammad, was the district president of Plebiscite Front in Budgam. My grandfather, Haji Ghulam Mohiuddin, was tortured by a very infamous police officer; his mouth stuffed with hot potatoes, kicked and beaten, because he used to observe Indian Independence Day as a ‘black day.’ We fought elections so that we could pass resolution in the assembly for freedom of Kashmir. India knew that. That is why they rigged the elections. People remember that when I was campaigning for the elections, I used to begin my speech with ay mard-e-mujahid jaag zara. Fighting elections were a means to educate masses about the freedom struggle. We wanted endorsement of public sentiment in the assembly. Otherwise who would have voted for my person, I was nobody. But people voted for the sentiment. Even the relatives of my opponent Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah voted for me. And those who were campaigning for elections became top resistance leaders. We were ideologically driven by the struggle for freedom.
 There was a case against me in which the then SSP had said that I was not campaigning for elections but for freedom.
 If the Muslim United Front (MUF) had won the elections, we would have tabled a resolution for right of self-determination. India would have dissolved the assembly and that would have triggered the freedom struggle. Majority of the MUF members were in favour of such a resolution. The MUF was anti-India by its very nature and essence. We were going to use elections to get to the goal, but that didn’t mature.
Can the same approach be adopted now?
 It can’t be repeated now. All of us are an open book now. There is not the need even. By shedding their blood, people have said what they want.
Hizb militants supported pro-India politicians in 2002 elections?
 It is propaganda that our commanders supported PDP in South Kashmir or any other area. This propaganda was unleashed by the PDP in Islamabad and by the National Conference in Srinagar. They are still saying it because so-called elections are round the corner. Supporting them in elections is betrayal of the blood of martyrs.
Would Hizb and militant leadership participate in dialogue? Is a united militant-political front possible?
It doesn’t matter if we physically participate in the dialogue or not. What matters is the agenda of the dialogue. It should be tripartite. We can entrust political leadership with the responsibility of the dialogue, but that leadership has to be credible. Militant leadership would keenly look at the political developments so that sacrifices of our youth are not compromised with the Indians. Since January 2007, Hizb alone has lost 200 men. We won’t like leaders to spend four hours talking about freedom struggle and then spend rest of the time hobnobbing with Indian agencies. There is need for Tat’heer (purification) among the political leadership. (Purification means?) The political leadership must be pro-freedom, have no linkages with Indian agencies. The political leadership that supports the right of self-determination, UN resolutions, or meaningful tripartite talks is worthy of a dialogue. We don’t support persons.
 A united front of militant and political leaderships is possible. My idea of such a united front is in the form of a secretariat with clear division of work. There could be people in charge of political, diplomatic, and militant fronts. And a prerequisite of such a union is the unity of present political leadership. Pro-freedom leaders should unit on principles. They should look into the causes that led to the division, not to fix blame on people, but to avoid a division in future.
How would militant groups like LeT react?
 Lashkar-e-Toiba will agree if talks are tripartite. LeT believes India is not sincere.  Moderates in Hurriyat, and even some pro-India politicians too believe that India is not sincere.
Elections and election boycott
 Though elections are no referendum but India portrays them as such. Hence there is a need to educate people how India uses these elections to strengthen its occupation. These elections are therefore a challenge to Hurriyat leadership. They should vigorously campaign against it. There should be mass mobilisation. Seminars in hotels won’t do.
Biggest setbacks to the resistance struggle
 The biggest setback to the freedom struggle was the unilateral surrender by Parvez Musharraf. That was most detrimental. He started a gradual climb down on Kashmir without getting anything in return from India. The split in Hurriyat Conference, formation of Ikhwan, martyrdom of many top militant commanders, weakened militant organisations, and infighting between militant organisations were other setbacks. It was unfortunate that some leaders who started the armed struggle and whom I admire much gave up arms. 
Hizb has suffered heavy losses in recent times
 The network of informers has increased. There is also a possibility of infiltration of Indian elements.