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April 8, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Syed Ali Shah Geelani

'They are killing the democracy in Kashmir to save the democracy in India'

The release of three All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders has given the hope that the simmering Kashmir dispute will move towards a peaceful resolution. The three leaders -- Syed Ali Shah Geelani (considered the most important of them all), Professor Abdul Gani Lone and Maulana Abbas Ansari -- were on Monday, April 3, released from the Jodhpur jail and flown to New Delhi by a special aircraft. They spent the next few days in the national capital. Geelani said they would -- "InshaAllah" -- return to Srinagar on April 8.

He made it clear that while he was willing to talk with the Indian authorities, he had two conditions. The first was that the talks must be to resolve the Kashmir dispute, and that Pakistan must be a party to the talks. He ruled out bilateral talks with India. Excerpts from the exclusive interview he gave Amberish K Diwanji:

You have been in Delhi for three days now. Have you met and spoken with anyone?

No, we have not met or spoken with anyone at the government level.

You have spoken about resolving the Kashmir dispute. What do you think needs to be done?

This is not a new dispute but one that began way back in 1947. This issue is a great dilemma that must be ended. The APHC desires to resolve the issue peacefully, but the biggest hurdle in our path is the attitude of India. Without fear of contradiction or rebuttal, I will say that India's attitude towards Kashmir is unrealistic.

Neither does India look at the historical background, nor does it look towards its commitment in the matter, nor to the guidelines laid down by Lord Mountbatten in July 25, 1947 for Partition. Nor does India look at the reasons it took police action in Hyderabad nor to the reasons that India took action to stop Junagadh from joining Pakistan.

If India's leaders look at all these aspects, then their very conscience will tell them 'You have no right to Kashmir on the basis of the guidelines laid down by Lord Mountbatten.'

What you have mentioned is history. What about the present.

You cannot reject 52 years of history. If that is the case, that 52 years have past and we are not bound to see what has gone past, then the very act of Accession can be questioned. This is not an argument that since time has gone by the situation has changed. We have to take guidance of history to see the future, to be able to adopt a line in the present position.

We have always been seeking a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. India says that the matter must be resolved through peaceful and democratic means, and I have been participating in elections since 1962. I was a member of the assembly for 15 years. In 1987, we fought elections, the reason being to solve the issue by peaceful means. But India has never accepted this.

When on August 19, 1989, the voice of militancy was raised, the then chief minister Farooq Abdullah called a meeting and asked us what was happening. An independent member said it was anger at his [Abdullah's] rule; the BJP member said it was rising militancy that should be crushed with a heavy hand; and when I was asked, I warned that it was a political problem, which India had not yet addressed. I also warned that if it was not redressed in time, the problem would increase and that is exactly what has happened.

India then did not heed my words. It thought that it was strong and could militarily solve the problem. Now, 11 years have passed and India has utterly failed in curbing the violence. The reason is that it is a mass movement. It is not a movement of some persons alone.

What is the political solution?

India has said that it will ask the people of Jammu and Kashmir about their future. The people must be asked. Now, the Indian leaders say they have asked the people. How? Through the state elections.

Now I too am a witness to all these political elections. In 1952, elections were just held for two seats, rest were fixed. In 1957, Sheikh Abdullah was in jail. [ Ghula] Bakshi was there, his men rounded up all the others in the opposition, their nominations rejected, and so on. India calls this election. Till 1957 India used to say that the people's wishes will be respected, and then said in 1957 that the assembly had accepted Kashmir's accession.

Yet, even Sheikh Abdullah, on April 11, 1964, rejected this, saying the assembly was not a true representative and cannot decide the future of Kashmir. Those who do not have the right to be elected cannot decide on accession.

Are you ready to talk on Kashmir?

No one objects to talking. We [the APHC] are willing to talk. But we don't want a dialogue for the sake of a dialogue. Such talks are of no use. The dialogue should take place for the resolution of the [Kashmir] problem. It must be a dialogue to resolve the problem.

You are reported to have said that Pakistan must also be a party to the talks.

If you agree that there must be talks to resolve the problem, then you will also have to realise that all the concerned parties (sic) should attend to the dialogue. The concerned parties includes Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, that is the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

When you say the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, how does one establish who represents the people?

If on the call of the APHC or of any of its leaders, there is a total general strike throughout the valley, is this not a criteria that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are with the APHC? Are elections the only criteria to establish representation, the very same election about which [Union minister Ram] Jethmalani had said, 'We have to kill democracy to save democracy.'

This is their view about Kashmir, they are killing the democracy in Jammu and Kashmir to save the democracy in India, to show the world community that we are the greatest democratic community.

The government has said it is willing to hold talks with those not involved in violence. Will you participate in the talks if invited?

Other journalists have asked me this question, which is in response to the statement by [Union home minister] L K Advaniji about having talks. Our stand is that if we get the letter officially from the government [the APHC has not received any letter so far], then the APHC executive council will discuss the contents of the letter and decide what we have to do.

You spoke about implementing the United Nations resolution. The UN resolution also calls on Pakistan to withdraw from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir...

The UN resolution says that the plebiscite administrator is to be appointed, and that when he takes charge, then Pakistan will be asked to withdraw their forces from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and India will be also be told that the bulk of its forces in Kashmir should be withdrawn. So let a plebiscite administrator be appointed by the UN, but India is not willing to let that happen.

Is there a solution besides plebiscite?

I have said that there should be tripartite conference and a solution can be found.

But, short of plebiscite, what solution are you looking at?

When the tripartite talks are held, all solutions can be looked at and discussed. And when we arrive at a consensus solution, acceptable to all concerned, that can be adopted.

Which means that you are willing to talk...

For the resolution of the problem, not just for the sake of dialogue we are willing to talk.

Exactly, for the sake of resolving the problem, you are willing to look at options beyond plebiscite?

Yeah, definitely. Whichever formula comes out, we will discuss.

Have you communicated this view of yours to the Government of India?

It is very much clear. When we installed this office [in New Delhi] on November 5, 1995, at that moment we had declared that if there is any difficulty in having a plebiscite, there is an alternative. And the alternative is tripartite conference of the concerned parties, who can sit around the table and they will try to find out any solution acceptable to the concerned parties.

You have said that the talks must be tripartite. But right now, Pakistan has a military regime that India does not even recognise. So what is the way out?

As far as the government of any country is concerned, it is necessary that the people of that country should recognise that government. It is not for another country to recognise that government.

But it is army rule and surely you don't accept people to come out against tanks...

If the people are accepting that army rule, then we should have no objections.

Do you think people are accepting that army rule?

When it is better than civil rule, then people should accept it.

That only time will tell.

I'll tell you. Whenever we have seen the army in Jammu and Kashmir, that is the worst. People should be given some guarantees such as the right to live peacefully, have freedom, etc.

My question is that will you be willing to talk with the Government of India without Pakistan?


Pakistan has to be involved?

That is a must. Pakistan is a party [to the issue]. India has accepted that Pakistan is a party when the Nehru-Liquat Ali pact was done, India has accepted this when the Tashkent Agreement was signed, the same when the Simla Agreement was signed, India has accepted Pakistan as a party when the Swaran Singh-[Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto dialogue was going on for six months, so why not at this moment?

I ask because India does not recognise the present regime.

That is not a sound reason.

Some reports claimed that you had said Bill Clinton was the reason you were released. Is this true?

We were released because the government had no case against us. There was no justification for our detention. Regarding Clinton, we are not aware what transpired between them. In our cell, we did not even get the newspapers regularly, and always got them late.

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