Geelani, who has been on an India tour recently to draw attention to the crisis the Valley, told Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa that the Ekta Yatra is an indication that the BJP does not want to win over the hearts of the people in Kashmir, but wants to rule over them. Here are the excerpts
What are your thoughts on the BJP's Ekta Yatra?
I am against BJP hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk. It is uncalled for and the party is unnecessarily raking a controversy, which could have been avoided.
Why according to you is the BJP raking up this issue?
The whole issue is that the BJP does not have an issue. There are so many other problems to deal with but they seem to be holding on to this one, as they want to provoke the public's sentiments. The BJP likes to believe that they are nationalists. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated a peace process and the party is disrupting it. The fact is that they are not in power and do not have to worry about issues pertaining to development or relief work.
Do you think that the Congress should have so aggressively opposed the BJP?
There should not have been any sort of hype over the issue. The Congress too should have buried this issue and dealt with the BJP in a milder manner. The whole issue could have been sorted out in New Delhi and should not have reached Kashmir in the first place.
How is J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah handing the issue?
The CM has done nothing. Instead he has added to the hype that the yatra is receiving. He should have stayed put in the state instead of rushing to Delhi and making national headlines. The Congress on the other hand seems to have some other agenda on hand. They wanted this issue to become big so that the focus is taken away from the scams and they have managed to do so very well.
What do you think must be done?
What the BJP should ideally be doing is winning the hearts of the people in Kashmir, who do not consider themselves to be part of India. By going on the offensive and provoking sentiments nothing can be gained.
Why ask the BJP alone to do so? What are the rest of the party's doing to reach out to the people in Kashmir?
We have tried to reach out to the public, but it's a long process. We are going around telling the locals what the real problem is. But the BJP instead of addressing the real issues is spoiling it all by raking up a controversy.
Why is there such a tussle regarding hoisting the national flag?
Most Kashmiris do not consider themselves as part of India. They would not take it too kindly if the flag is hoisted there.
It's the national flag we are talking about. What's wrong in hoisting it?
There is nothing wrong. But why pick up a location that is disputed. Let's try and win the hearts of the public so that they can come forward and unfurl the flag. The tricolour will be hoisted in Srinagar on January 26. Is that not enough.
But the Ekta Yatra seems to have gathered a lot of support. You cannot deny that.
The BJP is surely whipping up national sentiment. However, within Kashmir they enjoy no support. The people of Kashmir did not need to deal with this issue at the moment since they face a lot of other problems. Look at Jammu for instance. All the Hindus there too do not want to deal with this controversy; they feel it does not serve their needs. The people supporting the BJP in Jammu are all outsiders not locals.
What happened the last time the BJP hoisted a flag in Kashmir 1992?
That was years ago and the BJP it not make it into an event. It did not involve the public. Murali Manohar Joshi, the then BJP president, hoisted the flag at Lal Chowk and he was only accompanied by his security personnel.
Are you worried that there will be some retaliation from terrorists in Pakistan if the yatra goes ahead?
This is not about Pakistani terrorists. This is about alienating the people of Kashmir. If this event goes on the people of Kashmir will feel alienated.
What exactly do the people of Kashmir want?
We need to win over the public, not impose things upon them. They should not feel like they are being ruled over. However, what the BJP is doing now only indicates that they want to rule over the people of Kashmir.
Image: S A R Geelani