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The Rediff Interview/Hurriyat Chairman Moulvi Abbas Ansari
January 23, 2004
Moulvi Abbas Ansari, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, led the separatist conglomerate's five-member delegation during the two-and-a-half hour-long meeting with Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on January 22. In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh in New Delhi soon after the talks, a visibly happy Ansari described Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as an "apostle of peace."
Are you satisfied with the talks?
I am satisfied with the talks to a great extent, though not fully.
Advani showed great sincerity during his talks with our delegation. He wants to solve the Kashmir issue and create conditions favourable to carry on a dialogue. When we came here we had reasons to feel confident because the Government of India had not only agreed to talk to us at the political level but also did not impose any conditions for talks. So when we received the invitation for talks we were willing to come to Delhi and hold discussions with Advaniji. We felt assured that we would be able to make some headway in our talks with the government.
You said he was sincere in his approach. What do you mean?
That is the feeling we got during our interaction. It was his sincere attitude that helped in holding good and free discussions.
What issues did you raise with Mr Advani?
We raised all the concerned issues. We talked about the ceasefire on the international border. We discussed how this has helped improve living conditions in villages on both sides of the border. We said there should be a ceasefire between the militants operating in Kashmir and security forces in the country. We talked about prisoners who are languishing in jails for years for no fault of their's. Those who have no charges against them should be released immediately and those who have charges against them should be proceeded against, tried in a court of law and punished.
Another important issue we raised was that Kashmiris should be kept in Kashmiri jails only. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult for relatives to meet the man in prison. They spend thousands of rupees to travel to various places; sometimes even then they are not allowed to meet the person. I gave my own example -- how my wife and relatives travelled to Jodhpur in Rajasthan to meet me when I was in detention.
Did you raise the issue of going to Pakistan?
We did raise the issue. We told him we would like to talk to those wielding the gun on the other side of the Line of Control and persuade them to give up violence. He said this issue could be looked into at a later stage. When we sow the seeds even the tree does not grow overnight. Likewise, we raised other issues and their solution will be found step-by-step. To us this seems logical. Inshaallah sab teek ho jayega (God willing everything will be alright).
Terrorists have threatened the Hurriyat leaders and said you have sold out to the Indian government.
When they see our joint declaration then they will realise we have not sold ourselves. On the contrary, we have honoured the sacrifices made by those who laid down their lives.
They (the terrorists) have taken up the gun to solve the Kashmir issue but unfortunately they have done nothing constructive to solve the very problems that they pretend to be raising.
We are trying to achieve the same goals through negotiations.
What kind of solution are you looking for?
A solution that would maintain the dignity of the Government of India, the government of Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. What are your expectations from Prime Minister Vajpayee?
Vajpayee is an apostle of peace. He is a poet at heart and we expect much from him.
It is said you were keen on meeting Mr Advani to find a face-saving formula to bail you out of a tight corner. Is that true?
This is not true. Why would we try to save our face and from whom? There is nothing like that. We had been saying that Kashmir ki baat Kashmiri log he karen. Kashmiri apani baat kar rahen hain (Discuss the issues of Kashmir with the Kashmiris, Kashmiris will discuss the issues among themselves).
Are you happy with the government's response?
Indeed, it is a matter of great satisfaction that the Government of India eventually agreed to talk to the people of Kashmir to solve the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. The talks have been welcomed by all the leading political parties of the state as well as the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Main Photograph: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
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