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September 3, 1999


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The Rediff Interview/ Dr Farooq Abdullah

'Islamabad will come to the negotiating table, you wait and see'

Varsha Bhosle

Raising Cain

Your relationship with the National Democratic...

The prime minister has made it very clear: I'm a special invitee to the NDA. We have our own existence as the National Conference. And on issue-basis, we have supported them in the last government. We will do the same thing in the future.

Why did Saifuddin Soz...

I think Soz wanted a ministry and I would not try for his ministry in the NDA government.

That's it? Not because, as he said, "the BJP is fundamentalist"?

I have my firm belief that if you continue to call people fundamentalist, you will only make them further fundamentalist. In the BJP there are people who realise what India is all about. That India has to remain secular. That is the only hope in hell for India to progress; that all religions in India have equal opportunity to progress. That is what we have tried, the same thing. Otherwise, there are severe fundamentalists even in Congress! And other organisations.

In the Congress?

Yes! YES! They may show a secular face in front, but are communal to the core.

Please name one.

No, I don't want to. But there ARE.

Mr Soz had said that he tried to convince you to abstain from voting till midnight of April 16.

He's lying. He had already met Mrs Sonia Gandhi. He had already decided with Surjeet, who is his mentor.

You're kidding me!

I swear to you, I will never lie. God is my guide when I tell you these things. Harkishan Singh Surjeet is the one who was his mentor, who made him do all these things. Why is he supporting him [Soz] when the Communists have nothing here? Why is Congress supporting him if he was not part of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's plan?

Mr Soz is slated to take Baramulla.

Time will show... Those who stab the party are never popular.

Mr Soz said you are always busy in "extra-curricular activity" and "involved in frivolous things."

I have a golf club right there. My doctors have ordered to me to walk because I've become partially diabetic, I suffer from gout, I suffer from hypertension. So once a week if I get time, I go to the golf course and walk a bit. I've been told to do it everyday -- I can't. I don't booze, I don't smoke -- in WHAT way is Farooq Abdullah frivolous? I leave [for work] in the morning, I'm back at night. Even my home has improved only since my daughter-in-law has come. People say all sorts of things, that's the tragedy of our times.

How would you bring the Kashmiri Pandits back? The Panun Kashmiris have now asked for a Union Territory.

What's the use of a Union Territory? To get there and to come out, they'll have to pass through the rest of the Kashmiris. How will they feel? How many such lands will you make tomorrow in the rest of the country? And Muslims in India will want probably, in every state, a separate entity. How can you deny them then? Tomorrow Parsees might ask for a separate homeland. Are you going to carve that out for them? How many homelands are you going to create?

So, how will you bring the Pandits back?

We've told them, for god's sake, COME HOME! Other Hindus are living in the state, in their homes, in the villages! All facilities that we're giving you in Jammu, we'll give you here. We've worked it out with the government. Mr Advani worked out a package in which we said that we will bring them home, make their homes. Gradually people are coming. I do not say the whole lot is coming in one go, but slowly, the trickle has started. I hope to God they'll come and establish their home again. That wave [of terrorism] came. That wave is over!

How can you say it's over?!

Why not! I wish you'd come here 6 years ago, you'd have seen the amount of bunkers that were here. At twenty places you were checked. And the shops here used to close at 4 o'clock. Today, you can walk and shop at 10 o'clock. Marriages take place at night, too. Don't you SEE the hustle and bustle?

But today even army camps are being attacked!

That's a different matter. That's a different war they [Pakistan] have started. That war is going on; it is not a change.

The Centre has refused to give you additional security forces for the elections.

Where from are they going to give me the extra forces? After all, they have to guard the border against the very enemy who opened Kargil. They are guarding the border all the way from the Chinese front to the Pakistani front; in J&K, in Punjab, in Haryana, in Gujarat, in Rajasthan, right up to Kutch. If they could give me more, they would.

I should also be realistic: one can be greedy, ask for the whole thing. You should see India in totality, rather than just one small state of Kashmir, and say, no, everything should come here. It's not possible.

Lt Gen Hoon has said that border fencing is a waste of money.

Unfortunately, we've had a lot of problems because they [Pakistan] started shooting and shelling, but we went on. It's not so easy, with Pakistan. In Punjab, it's done a world of good.

Islamabad has stated that it will not talk to India if Kashmir is not the issue.

They have been saying it all the time, but they have been [talking]. They will come to the negotiating table, you wait and see.

How can you be so sure?

I know them! When India exploded the atomic bomb in 1974, Pakistan broke off the talks, and then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto told me himself that please tell Mrs Gandhi that we will start talking in August. So, this is all for local consumption. They WILL talk. Pakistan and India have no other way than to talk and find a peaceful solution.

Do you think a peaceful solution is possible?

War is destructive; no sane person wants it. But if it is thrust, you can't escape it. When it started, we went with it, and by the grace of God, we got victory and we also got international support. We did not cross the Line of Control when we COULD cross it. We did not use the mass destruction equipment that we have. The world realised that we were not at fault. India has NEVER started wars.

You know what the sentiments of the people were, when I went with the home minister to many areas? They said, for god's sake, for 50 years we've had enough trouble. Now for once, let us get rid of it. Aar ya paar -- that was the sentiment of common man. He said, I may have thousand complaints against Farooq Abdullah's government, I may have thousand complaints against the Indian government, but today we're not going to talk of those complaints. We want a final settlement. This was the sentiment of the people on the border. They are SICK of it.

I don't see a possibility.

One day it will come. Nobody knew that one day Russia and America can sit together and America will help the Russian economy. Did you ever think that the Berlin Wall would disappear? It did happen.

Do you think that PoK will ever be re-united with Kashmir?

I think, Inshallah, a time will come when a better relationship will exist between India and Pakistan. I don't think Kashmir will be one. But at least the line will be easier. That people will be able to come and go and marry and have trade.

No government, whichever it may be, will make the LoC the International Border.

Time will make them do so. Wait and see. It is the only solution that can work. Or, we'll have such a bloody war... I said this in '93 in America, when they asked me what is the solution.

With Indians, it's a very emotional issue - with the people, not just governments.

It's unfortunate. But if you explain to them... Jinko darr lagta hai Kashmir aane se, even as part of India, what do you think people here feel then?

Death can come only in Srinagar or Gulmarg? If it's meant for you, it will come anywhere. It's the principle of Nature.

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