No unity is possible, until we have one slogan, one goal and one flag’
Tell us something about yourself?
I belong to a family, where the atmosphere was religious. I was born on February 8, in Kolipora, Khanyar area of old Srinagar. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Bio-Chemistry Bacteriology and separate degrees in First Aid and Nursing, Diet Therapy and also a degree in Arabic from the University of Kashmir.
How did you get familiar with Kashmir issue?
Whenever the family members used to sit together, Kashmir issue would crop up. My youngest uncle was martyred immediately after partition in Udhampur in 1947 during Jammu Massacre. My maternal uncle, Ghulam Mustafa Alvi, was also associated with Alt Fatah, and he went to Pakistan in 1962. So Kashmir issue would always be a primary focus of the discussion in our family. It's not that we were unaware of the Kashmir issue. I was very familiar with Kashmir issue since childhood. When Bangladesh was formed out of Pakistan in 1971, I remember, as if it is today.
When did you lead the first protest rally?
I was in class 11th when I led the first protest rally. It was against atrocities by forces in a college at Anantnag, in year 1977. In 1979, I also led a protest against preventing the then Imam-e-K'aba to address a gathering at Iqbal Park. He was stopped to address the people by National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
Did you have any career ambitions after Graduation?
I wanted to go outside J&K for doing Masters in Science. My brother was in Pune then, and I wrote a letter to him seeking permission, but he denied on the pretext that Islam doesn't allow a young girl to go alone to a far off place. I couldn't say no to him, as I was so attached to him.
What brought you so close to Islam?
It was February 1981, I stumbled on a book, Khawateen ki Dilon ki Batein. It was in my home library. I started reading the book, and was so impressed with how Maryam Jameela had reverted to Islam. I remember, it was the cover story of the book. The book created so much impact on my life that after reading the book, I started covering my head and also my face. I also started offering prayers five times a day. It was the same day, I promised to Almighty that I will spend my entire life for Islam. The book changed my life completely and I took a pledge to follow Islam as a complete way of life.
When did you float Dukhtaran-e-Milat outfit?
Inspired by Maryam Jameela's story, I pledged to teach others as well. In December 1981, I saw an advertisement in a newspaper that a Darsgah needs an Alima at Sazgaripora. The Darsgah was run by Muzaffar Khadim who passed away recently. I applied and was selected. I started teaching Quran to toddlers. I told those kids to bring their mothers and sisters also to Darsgah. And within days, I started taking five classes a day. In 1984, Kashmiri girls were being sent for Jaishn-e-Kashmir in New Delhi and we objected to it. We staged a protest at Nowhatta and I wrote a booklet titled Dukhtaran-e-Fatima kay naam, Dukhtaran-e-Milat ka Paigam. This was the when DeM appeared in public domain, otherwise it was active before that. And in 1987, we took out a massive protest against the nude pictures pasted outside cinemas across Srinagar. And police started manhunt against me forcing me to go underground for 21 days.
And when was DeM banned?
It was banned in 1990.
When did you marry Dr Muhammad Qasim Faktoo?
It was in year 1990.
When were you arrested for the first time and why?
It was in 1993, when I was arrested for the first time. We were returning to Srinagar on February 5, 1993 from New Delhi and were detained by the BSF at Srinagar airport. This was for the first time I was arrested. The agencies prepared a 30 page dossier against me that included the charges of waging war against India, promoting separatism and mobilizing people against India. I was kept in ladies CRPF camp and later taken to a Jammu jail.
When was the first Public Safety Acts slapped on you, and how many since then?
It was in 1993, when I was booked under first PSA. In 1999, my husband was acquitted and in 2000 he was again arrested. In between, we had two kids, Muhammad and Ahmed. I was arrested in 2005 and booked under PSA for raising mu voice against sex scandal. When that PSA was quashed, I was slapped with another. I was released in 2007. And in 2008, I was slapped with PSA, one after another. So far 14 PSAs have been slapped on me.
How did to you manage to bring up your two sons, in absence of your husband?
My elder son studied at his home for one year. I even managed his admission in school outside the State, but he was so much attached to me, he couldn't stay without me. In a year, I changed three schools for my son. It was very difficult to ensure proper studies for my sons. I acted as both, father and a mother for my children. It was so difficult for me to bring up my children, rather most challenging thing in my life.
At times you act as a social worker, and at times a separatist?
I would describe myself as a Muslim woman. Fighting against sex scandal was my moral obligation, fighting against immorality is my responsibility, and being part of resistance movement is my duty.
You started Forum Against Social Evils (FASE), what happened to that?
I was member of FASE. The Forum was formed to fight social evils collectively. I refused to become head of this Forum as I didn't want to give it a political colour, as I was already heading Dukhtaran-e-Milat. When the head of the Forum was arrested, it was a jolt, and after that it started dying a silent death.
At times you have been seen criticising separatists including Hurriyat Conference (G)?
I never criticized anybody just for the sake of criticism. I always give my suggestions. In mass uprisings of 2008, 2009 and 2010, people of Kashmir thought they are about to achieve freedom. People came with leaders and flooded streets. I would say leadership failed in all these three years. I received calls from mothers of those whose sons got killed in 2010 agitation. They told me their sons had told them to respect their sacrifices, and not to forget their blood. I was shocked to see people only being blamed for failure of movement. A leader is like a shepherd. And successful shepherd is the one who leads his herd in right direction. Leaders should introspect and work for one goal.
What is your formula for Separatist unity?
I don't accept any unity which is under pressure, or under compulsions. Though some people have joined Geelani sahib, let's hope they deliver. I have told even Geelani sahib that we say our fight is against Indian occupation, we should understand that Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of Partition. We can't achieve our target until we have one flag and one slogan. Unity is not possible unless we have single slogan and single flag. Movement, not parties should be our priority.
Can you tell us what according to you is the possible solution of Kashmir issue?
It is simple. Merger with Pakistan is the only solution. I am not against raising slogans we want freedom. We first want freedom from India and then we have to merge with the Union of Pakistan. For me, that's the only solution.
Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif recently responded to your letter. How significant was it?
See I had written a letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan after his speech in Ufa, Russia. I wrote to him that Pakistan has been a sympathizer of Kashmiris, and we understand how much Pakistan has suffered because of Kashmir issue. I mentioned that whatever problems Pakistan is facing on its internal front, it was because of Indian agencies. I made it a point in the letter that Pakistan is not the same country as it was in year 1971 and it was a nuclear power now, and Pakistan army was equal to Indian army in power. I urged the Pakistan Prime Minister that they should stop calling India as its big brother as that creates a negative impact. His reply to my letter was good as he had stated that he was happy with the concern expressed by me, and there is no question of changing Pakistan's stance on Kashmir.
You recently faced a controversy for waving Pakistani flag. Do you love controversies?
Waving Pakistani flag is nothing new for me. I remember, doing it since childhood. And Dukhtaran-e-Milat has been doing it on every August 14 and March 23. We also sing Pakistan's national anthem. I believe I am within full rights to wave Pakistani flag. Pakistan is a Muslim country. It may not be an Islamic country. Our religion is same and if we have to choose between the two, Islam, has to be the first choice.
Your husband is facing lifer. Any hopes for his release?
I believe, when Almighty would wish, only then my husband would be released. He has been framed in a fabricated case. I think life sentence, which till now meant 14 years of imprisonment, has been changed for him and made as life till death. I have no hopes from New Delhi, PDP or NC about my husband's release.
There are reports Mehbooba Mufti would take over as J&K Chief Minister. Any message for her?
No messages. It hardly makes any difference if Mehbooba takes over.
How strong is DeM at present?
I believe not the numbers, but ideology matters. Thanks to Almighty, those who are with us have a very strong ideology and are consistent. We have our members everywhere in the State. I would say our members are stronger than me.