January 2000 News

Political solution needed in Kashmir: Mirwaiz Farooq

17 January 2000
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: The 27-year-old Mirwaiz (head priest) of Kashmir Moulana Mohammad Umar Farooq, who is the acting chairman or separatist conglomerate All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), has admitted that the latest round of "reformed" militancy has relegated this political platform into the background. Strongly denying that Saudi billionaire, Osma Bin Laden, had any links with the Kashmir "movement", he says that foreign militants had a limited role in the State which was confined to "right of self-determination". Mirwaiz Umar, who completed his post-graduate degree in Islamic Studies and has been admitted to M.Phil, in the Kashmir after his father Moulvi Mohammad Farooq was gunned down by unknown militants in May 1991. The youthful Hurriyat leader could not join Columbia University even after getting admission for political solution would bring around normality in bullet-ridden Kashmir. Mirwaiz Umar spoke to The Hindu on various aspects of Kashmir at his Palatial Nagin residence in Srinagar. Excerpts of the interview:

Shujaat Bukhari: How do you see the present situation in Kashmir, particularly after the militants launched "suicidal squads" or Fidayeen in Kashmir.?

Mirwaiz Farooq: It is very tense. I can say the atmosphere is filled with panic from all sides with security forces resorting to crackdown following spurt in the militancy-related activities.

Shujaat Bukhari: Do you think that the increase in militancy has undermined the importance of Hurriyat Conference?

Mirwaiz Farooq: Yes, it is a debacle. Militancy is in the from run and Hurriyat, which is a political organisation has gone into background. But nobody is to be blamed except the Government of India, which has adopted a rigid attitude vis-a-vis Kashmir. It has never allowed a political opposition to emerge. If that would have been the case the Hurriyat leadership would not have been in jail.

Shujaat Bukhari: But how can militancy replace politics?

Mirwaiz Farooq:As the crackdown on political leadership continues it leads to vacuum culminating in increasing militancy. And Kashmir issue has international dimensions now.

Shujaat Bukhari: What has been the role of Hurriyat in political direction?

Mirwaiz Farooq: Our effort has been to create an atmosphere when the issue is addressed politically by all the parties but unfortunately the Government of India (GOI) has always tried to ignore us saying that it was the creation of ISI or was a fundamentalist organisation. May be they may overcome militarily but politically they have lost.

Shujaat Bukhari: Why has Hurriyat failed to stop militancy if not succeeded to convince the GOI?

Mirwaiz Farooq: As there was no positive response from the GOI we cannot control everything. people still go across and come from "Pakistani Kashmir" which is also a disputed part. Youth from that par are here and even sympathisers of our movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will increase and we cannot resist it as frustration among youth is on rise. Militancy is taking new shape which will beyond any control now.

Shujaat Bukhari: You have held the view that the "movement" was an indigenous one but there are militants from Pakistan and other countries fighting here.

Mirwaiz Farooq: This is a fact that Pakistani part of Kashmir is serving as a base camp for our struggle. We get support from people there and no Government, even Pakistan can stop those people from helping us as "it is also a disputed part of the Jammu and Kashmir State". Moreover many countries, including Pakistan, are helping us and Kashmiris living abroad are constantly supporting the movement.

Shujaat Bukhari: What about the role of Osma bin Laden?

Mirwaiz Farooq: No. He has not direct or indirect role in militant movement in Kashmir. His sympathy can be there as it is from other people.

Shujaat Bukhari: To what extent are you in contact with militants?

Mirwaiz Farooq: Up to 1994, we had coordination with the Shoura-e-Jehad, the apex body of various militant outfits. But is could not be maintained thereafter. We are trying to establish contact with new setup. But I tell you we condemn the blasts like that Sabzi Mandi in which 16 civilians were killed. Militants have also condemned the incident. Hurriyat appeals to them not to indulge in such activities.

Shujaat Bukhari: Don't you think that militancy is being controlled by the pan-Islamic organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen having international network.

Mirwaiz Farooq: It is difficult for them to achieve their goal. We have movement which is for right of self-determination and they are linked with it as we are a Muslim majority state. We want a political situation. It our objective achieved politically their role ends. Moreover as long as they enjoy local support they are here. it they pursue a different agenda they lose the support. But they are working for "Kashmir cause". Both militancy and politics are important for us.

Shujaat Bukhari: How do you see the change of Government in Pakistan especially when Vajpayee-Nawaz had started dialogue on various issues, including Kashmir?

Mirwaiz Farooq: I personally welcomed the Lahore Declaration but since there is a change in Government, log of mistrust is on rise between India and Pakistan, where they cannot resolve any issue bilaterally. There is no shift of Kashmir policy as far as Pakistan is concerned and it will be more hardlined.

Shujaat Bukhari: You had once offered to have dialogue with GOI. Do you still continue with that stand?

Mirwaiz Farooq: I had said that in a context that there are three parties and I believe that there should be a start from somewhere whether between India and Pakistan, India and Kashmir or Pakistan and Kashmir. It is possible for us to enter into negotiations but without any pre-conditions. If they come one step towards us we will go ahead with two steps. Till now we thought the Jammu and Kashmir Government was an obstacle since it has failed on all fronts it should not be a problem for the GOI to start a dialogue.

Shujaat Bukhari: If the GOI wants to have National Conference government in the talks...?

Mirwaiz Farooq: No, that is not acceptable to us. It has not role. It will represented by the GOI.

Shujaat Bukhari: What kind of contact has the Hurriyat with Pakistani Government?

Mirwaiz Farooq: We do not have any formal contact, except that we meet their envoy's in Delhi or elsewhere. Though we have a shadow office there but there is a communication gap.

Shujaat Bukhari: Since the entire Hurriyat leadership is behind bars, how do you proceed?

Mirwaiz Farooq: Yes, we do face difficulties as our first and even second rung leadership is in jails. But we continue with our work mainly revolving round relief which we provide to around 1,300 families besides visiting the places where security forces resort to "repressive actions."


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