Interview: Syed Ali Shah Geelani
‘We will be best Indians if…’
There is strong rumour that the Govt. of India and All Party Hurriyat Conference are going to sit together for talks to seek the solution of the longstanding problem of Kashmir. With the release of several senior Hurriyat leaders this rumour gathered more strength. Though there has been no official clarification apart frm Home Minister LK advani’s verbal offers it is believed that something is cooking. Syed Ubaidur Rahman of the MG tried to find it out in a tête-à-tête with the senior Kashmiri leader and chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Excerpts:
How successful has been your decade-long armed struggle?
Our struggle is not limited to the last decade only. We have been struggling to be given freedom since the British left India. It was the responsibility of India to solve the J&K problem politically, but they tried to suppress the peaceful struggle for freedom forcibly.
In fact it is armed struggle that gave the Kashmir issue prominence in the whole world. It made people believe that if the Kashmir problem is not solved there will never be peace in the Sub-continent.
Have you received any invitation from the government for talks?
Talks invitation is absolutely baseless. The government is propagating that it freed us out of mercy. Our release from the jail does not show any mercy on the part of government. Why were we arrested in the first place? We had boycotted the elections in a democratic way. Even chief election commissioner said that it is not unlawful to boycott the election and it is a right of the people to either vote or not vote. But this irritated the government so much that we were put behind bars.
Why have you been insisting on the inclusion of Pakistan in your talks with the government?
We are insisting on it because we know that without the inclusion of Pakistan no lasting solution of Kashmir problem is possible. Pak owns a part of Kashmir. Without tripartite dialogues, that means Kashmiris, India and Pakistan, no lasting solution is possible.
Several Kashmiri organizations do not approve of Pak role in J&K. How will you tackle them?
All important organizations who have any hold in the Valley are with the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Other parties are sponsored by Indian government, be it National Conference, Congress-I, communist parties or newly launched Mufti Muhammad Saeed’s party. Otherwise all important organizations support our stand.
Do you believe that if you are invited for a dialogue, and reach a conclusion, will it be acceptable to all?
If the three parties come together and tripartite dialogues are held and we reach a conclusion I believe that then it will be acceptable to all.
What is going to be your demand if called for a dialogue?
First of all I want to clear one thing, there will be no talks without the inclusion of Pakistan. We want freedom. We want to decide our own fate. After freedom let the people decide what they want.
Don’t you think that Kashmir will go the same way Afghanistan has gone after Russia withdrew its forces from there?
No. I firmly believe that if a tripartite dialogue is held and we reach a conclusion it will never go Afghanistan way. Inshaallah.
Have you done anything for minorities during last 12 years in J&K? Any dialogue with them?
They are being taken care of by all of us. I assure you that minorities in Kashmir are safest in India. Even Gandhiji accepted this fact. Islam has taught us to behave decently with the minorities. It is our traditions.
You were very vocal in regard to the Sikh massacre in Chattisinghpora. But did you do anything for Pandits in the valley?
When Pandits were migrating we were in jails.
This time too you were in jail?
At that time we remained in jail for two years in a row. Even at that time we tried to placate Pandits not to leave the Valley. But it was planned by the then governor of J&K, Jagmohan, to communalize the freedom struggle. We tried to persuade them not to leave the Valley. But despite all our efforts they left. This time in case of the Sikh massacre we came out of jails only after a few months of incident. So you could see the difference.
What about Bodhs of Laddakh and Dogras of Jammu? Have you done anything for them?
We cannot take anybody along-with us forcibly. Our Bodh brothers want the status of union territory whereas Dogras want to go with India.
Do you want freedom for the Valley only?
We want it for the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. We want freedom for all parts. If anyone wants to go with India we will allow it to them. But it will be decided by the majority. If after freedom majority wants to remain in India we will agree. But first we should be given the right to choose our destiny. If the majority of Kashmiris decide to stay with India we will comply with their demands. And I assure you that in that case we will be best Indians.
Will you not agree that POK is lot more underdeveloped, undereducated and given less facilities than our part of Kashmir? So why it is so attractive for you? Sheer compulsion?
This is not a relevant issue. This whole argument is not enough to justify our oppression.