Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is Kashmir’s chief religious cleric and head of Hurriyat Conference- a conglomerate of political groups that demands resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
In an interview with South Asian Monitor, Mirwaiz underscores the need of an early resolution of Kashmir and points out how dialogue could be a way forward to end thecrisis in the Himalayan region, bordering Pakistan.
Excerpts from the Interview:
What as per your opinion is the solution to the Kashmir embargo keeping in view the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India?
Kashmir is not a bilateral problem- an issue between India and Pakistan. It concerns the future of 1.25 crore people of the state and generations to come. The two countries-India and Pakistan cannot solve it without taking the people of Kashmir on board. The two countries have tried to resolve the issue bilaterally in the past but have failed.
As far as the solution to Kashmir dispute is concerned, there are two options. One that the International agreements calling for plebiscite in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Second option is dialogue between the three parties of the dispute- India, Pakistan and people of Kashmir.
What is your view about the increasing number of young boys joining militancy in Kashmir even when the conflict is more than six decades old?
It is the stubborn attitude of New Delhi that is pushing the youth of Kashmir to the wall. India is not accepting Kashmir’s reality and not ready to accept that it is an indigenous struggle of the people of Kashmir.
The reason that even today the young and educated people are joining the militant ranks is because of the fact thatthe government is coercing them to do so. The Government in India is doing nothing to engage with these youth and try to understand their real aspirations. Sooner or later, the government must understand the sentiment of the people of Kashmir and resolve the dispute; there is no other alternative.
In May this year, when the government of India announced the Ramadhan ceasefire, why didn’t you and other separatist leaders responded positively to it?
That wasn’t a ceasefire in anyway. It was full of chaos and confusion and lacked clarity of vision. It seemed like there was no groundwork done before its announcement. The BJP which heads the federal government said one thing in New Delhi and a different thing in the state. Also the Indian home minister was saying one thing and the army chief was saying another about it. We have always been pitching for a sustainable and realistic peace process and political dialogue for the end of the Kashmir dispute. Ceasefires for the time being isn’t any solution to the decades old conflict.
So do you want dialogue with the Government of India over Kashmir and will be ready for being part of the engagement in this regard?
The problem can only be resolved if there is a sincere approach to address it. But for this you have to see Kashmir as a political problem and not a mere administrative one. Money and financial packages as being announced by the Government of India aren’t going to resolve it in any way. The truth is that the people in Kashmir aren’t sacrificing their financial packages or jobs. It is quite unfortunate that there is no seriousness being exhibited by the government of India to resolve the dispute.
You have been saying since long that the situation in Kashmir is quite dangerous on ground. Please explain?
It has become very clear now that the Indian government is using a military approach to crush peoples voice in Kashmir. There is an anti-people policy being implemented on ground in Kashmir and the situation has become quite unprecedented. Civilians are being killed during anti-militancy operations and the government is trying to control Kashmir militarily. See how the Indian government is trying to remove the state subject law in Kashmir that bars the people from outer states to buy land and settle in Kashmir. If the law is removed it will be exactly what we are seeing in Palestine today where people in their own homes have been made outsiders.
There is a change in Government in Pakistan and Imran Khan, the new Prime Minister has pitched for dialogue to resolve pending issues with India including Kashmir. What is your take?
It is a very known fact that Pakistan has always supported the people of Kashmir on political, moral and diplomatic fronts by acting as the mediator and voice of the oppressed people at international forums.
We believe that the new government under Prime Minister Imran Khan would continue to support the people’s struggle for realisation of Right to self determination. We also hope that that the new regime in Pakistan would continue to advocate strongly for the resolution of problems faced by Muslims across the globe and work hard for their redressal.