The state government is just a puppet of New Delhi, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardline leader of the Hurriyat Conference (G), tells Saubhadra Chatterji.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened an all-party meeting on Jammu & Kashmir on Tuesday. How do you see this initiative of the Indian government to bring peace in the valley?
I don't give any importance to these meetings. What is the prime minister going to offer the parties? There will be no result as far as the people of Jammu & Kashmir are concerned. These meetings are held in New Delhi under conviction that J&K is an integral part of India. The government is not even ready to recognise the political problem of Kashmir, the aspirations of independence of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, forget about recognising and reconciling to the fact that it is not part of India.
The Indian government wants to see the current situation as a pure law and order problem. And there lies the basic problem. If it wants to dilute the seriousness of the issue and reduce it to a mere law and order problem, it can never find the correct approach to solve the problem. This faulty approach will not make talks fruitful.
According to you, what should be the government of India's approach?
The Manmohan Singh government should keep in mind the historical perspective of the Kashmir struggle. The struggle of the Kashmiri people has been going on for more than 60 years. Don't see it as a sudden manifestation in the form of these recent stone-pelting incidents.
As long as India denies the people of Jammu & Kashmir their rights, their power and independence, the struggle will continue. India will have to recognise the independence of Kashmir and allow the people of Jammu & Kashmir to determine their own fate. Any other form of government, imposed from New Delhi, is not acceptable to our people.
First, India must agree to withdraw all security forces from the state. Pakistan will also be asked to take back its troops from Azad Kashmir areas. There should be a referendum on the future of J&K. This has been our demand for the past 62 years. India must accept this demand.
What, according to you, has resulted in recent violence in the Kashmir Valley?
It's the security forces. They are responsible for the bloodshed and loss of lives of Kashmiri youths. The bullets were fired by the forces. You must have seen that the civilians didn't carry any arms. They threw stones when they were challenged by the forces. The central forces and the police resorted to firing to suppress the civilians. They resorted to target killings. The people of Kashmir have been resisting the violence of the armed forces. They will continue to do so. Tell me, has a single security personnel been killed by the mob? Why is it that only innocent and unarmed civilians got killed? I wish J&K Police personnel behave in a more reasonable way. After all, they are not outsiders but part of Kashmir's social system.
Recent incidents are part of the political struggle of the people of J&K against the forces of India. We want India to leave Kashmir. That's why it is imperative for India to see the recent mob fury in the right historical perspective. Close to 49 people have been killed so far. What has the Centre done to stop these killings?
You recently gave a call for peaceful demonstrations. Were you afraid that you are losing grip over your supporters and thus want to embrace peaceful means?
This is not the first time I have called for peace. I have been saying this for years. I am not an advocate of violence and killings. I want to carry on this political struggle through peaceful means. I have warned the youth of Kashmir not to fall into the trap of the security forces. Stone-pelting gave the paramilitary forces an excuse to kill people. So, I have asked them to avoid these means and not give any chance to the brutal forces to kill people.
Life has become very difficult for the common Kashmiris because of the presence of security forces and curfews. If there is a partial hartal, people can manage, go to shops and buy essential goods. But if one defies curfew, one faces bullets. How long will the people suffer this torture?
The home minister has said he is ready to sit with the separatists. If the government is willing to talk with the Hurriyat leadership, why are you not coming forward?
Look, these so-called talks have been going on since March 23, 1952. There have been at least 130 rounds so far between the government and the people of Kashmir. What has been the result? A big zero. These talks are a futile exercise. They call us to fool us, they want to fool the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The government of India tries its tricks to deviate us from our struggle.
You might also say that the Hurriyat leadership is divided on various issues. Yes. It is true that we have our differences. But our objectives are the same. All factions of the Hurriyat want freedom from Indian security forces and a referendum on the future of Jammu & Kashmir.
You were recently locked up in jail as the government found you instigating the mob. How were your days in jail?
I was kept in Chashm-e-Shahi. They deployed doctors to look after me round the clock. The doctors took good care of me. I don't have any complaints about being in jail. This is part of our struggle.
Many observers of Kashmir affairs feel the Omar Abdullah government has failed to handle the situation in J&K and that the administration has failed to deliver results. Do you share the view?
I don't even want to enter into this futile argument. For me, there is no difference between Omar Abdullah and any other government. These governments are just puppets. The real master is New Delhi. New Delhi decides and selects who should rule J&K as its proxy. I don't want to blame Omar Abdullah as he is not the real authority. He is just acting on the instructions of the central government. It is the failure of New Delhi and it should take the blame.