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|June 10, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Shabir Ahmed Shah
With the arrest of hardline politician Syed Ali Shah Geelani under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on June 7 and, earlier, the assassination of the moderate Abdul Gani Lone on May 21, the separatist All-Parties Hurriyat Conference is facing a moment of acute crisis.
Shabir Ahmed Shah, chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party -- who was the only Kashmiri separatist politician to meet the Centre's interlocutor K C Pant -- spoke to Basharat Peer about the post-Lone separatist politics, the forthcoming state election and the prospects of an Indo-Pak confrontation. Excerpts:
How do you see Lone's assassination on May 21?
The brutal murder of Lone Sahib was a conspiracy, a political murder. But I do not know who all were behind it. Both India and Pakistan condemned it, so did the militant outfits. Time will reveal the truth. The murderers were certainly not the friends of Kashmiris.
Lone's pro-peace approach was well-known. With his death a vacuum has been created within the separatist camp, which is hard to fill. He had 45 years of political experience, his loss will always be felt. We have lost many important leaders like him, but the movement will go on.
The moderates within the separatist camp seem to have been silenced by Lone's killing and a fear psychosis has developed.
Maybe some leaders are scared. But I am not. Death is in the hands of Allah. The moderates should not remain silent. It will only lead to more killings.
Islam does not mean the Kalashnikov only. Islam urges its followers to accept offers of peace, even when they are cynical about the party making the offer. Militancy has done a commendable job by bringing the Kashmir issue out of the cold storage. But there is no military solution to it.
There were rumours of an attack on you some days ago. Are you bothered about your safety? Have you asked the government to increase your security?
I never applied for security, but the government has given me some guards after there was an attack on me some time back. I have grown up in this volatile atmosphere, but one has to be careful. Anyone can kill you and thrust the blame on someone else. That is a reason for concern.
Your name has been associated with the assembly election for a long time now. Please comment.
It has been said for a long time now that Shabir Shah will contest the elections. That the late Lone Sahib wanted to contest, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq was willing to contest. When I spoke about the elections first, I meant it in the context of proving the representative character of the separatist leadership. India would often say the separatist leadership is not representative. I was ready to contest elections, which would elect representatives, who would finally talk to India and Pakistan about the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
What about the forthcoming assembly election?
I am a democrat. I believe in the electoral process. But I am not participating in the assembly election. It is meant to elect a state government, replace Farooq Abdullah as chief minister or let him continue. This election will not help in solving the Kashmir issue. So participating in it does not make any sense.
It has been said that you along with expelled Hizbul Mujahideen commander Abdul Majid Dar were planning to form a third front as a counter to both the Hurriyat and the mainstream political parties.
I met Majid Dar before he was expelled from the Hizb. But he did not talk about the election or joining my party or forming a third front. He was of the opinion that the gun had served its purpose in Kashmir.
Yes, I have met some people regarding the formation of a third front, whose identities I will not disclose. I told them that if you are credible people and have a road map for resolution of the [Kashmir] issue, I will support you. But it will not be as a forum, but as a single organisation. It is too premature, however, to say whether this will materialise.
Various released militants too have formed a political party. How do you see it?
It is New Delhi's doing. Delhi wants to create a mess here.
Talking about Delhi, what did you think of the prime minister's recent visit to Kashmir? You said you were ready to talk to him but were not invited.
It was a disappointment. I had welcomed his visit and was expecting that he would talk to the separatist leadership. First he did not invite us, then he said in a press conference that anyone who wants to meet me is welcome to Delhi. It does not work that way. Vajpayee's visit can be summed up as khodaa pahaad, nikla chooha [Much ado about nothing].
Given a chance, would you talk to the central government?
Only if the Centre sends a formal invitation for dialogue. The Line of Control between India and Pakistan is like the Berlin Wall. If that could be broken, why cannot we solve the dispute over Kashmir?
How does the prospect of a war cloud the situation in Kashmir?
It is the other way round. Kashmir has brought the war clouds and only solving the Kashmir issue can remove the war clouds between India and Pakistan for good.
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