Violence In Kashmir Will Not Help Anyone: Hurriyat Leader
13 September 2000
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Hurriyat Conference is on an upswing. The source of its new strength is Sheikh Abdul Aziz, the 49-year-old leader of secessionist Peoples'' League, who recently joined the amalgam as one of the members of central executive, the highest decision-making body. Sheikh Aziz was freed from prison last week after spending eight years in different jails and has replaced belligerent S. Hameed in the Hurriyat Conference. Hameed was shot dead at a relative''s house two years ago. During Aziz''s incarceration, second-rung leaders of the Peoples'' League represented it in the amalgam. It was the solitary vote of the Peoples'' League that actually helped Prof. Abdul Gani to turn tables on his namesake and the only other contestant for the post of chairman of the Hurriyat Conference - Abdul Gani Lone. Many saw it as a victory of pro-Pakistani component of the amalgam over those supporting the idea of an independent Kashmir. Sheikh Aziz does not think so. ''There can be difference of opinion on issues which is essence of democracy but you would be doing injustice to us if you say we are a divided house,'' he said. He also does not subscribe to the view that the campaign for azadi has lost its charisma in public or the militancy has been hijacked by foreign mercenaries. ''What I feel is that everybody in the movement is playing his role more seriously now which is a good sign,'' he insisted. Denying that foreign militants are playing big brother''s role or the indigenous component of the militancy has been reduced considerably over the past few years, Sheikh Aziz asserted: ''They (foreign militants) are here to lay down their lives for the cause - liberate Kashmir from the clutches of India - and more brutal you are against native population, more guest mujahideen will arrive.'' Once the Kashmir issue is settled as per wishes its people, foreign militants shall have no role, he added. Sheikh Aziz was born in 1951 in a typical Kashmiri household in saffron town of Pampore, 15 km south of Srinagar. While he was a student at a local school ''the resistance movement against usurpation of the state by India went on gaining strength.'' In one such action, his grandfather, Sheikh Muhammad Sultan, was so severely beaten that his teeth were broken. These incidents cast their impression on young Sheikh Aziz. When he joined Srinagar''s Amar Singh College, he was mature enough to ''distinguish between right and wrong.'' He began participating in activities of the Young Men''s League, the Students'' League, the Youth League and Al-Fatah, all pro-plebiscite outfits, between 1968 and 1972. In 1974, these outfits merged to form Peoples'' League and Sheikh Aziz was one of its founding members. He has been in jail for about 14 years and headed Al-Jehad, the armed wing of the Peoples'' League when he was arrested from Nilorah village in south Kashmir in May 1993. As a ''responsible'' leader of the Hurriyat Conference, he strongly feels that violence will not help any party in Kashmir. The need of the day is to try to hold meaningful dialogue and arrive at a peaceful solution ''the sooner the better.'' That is possible only when Pakistan is also involved in the peace process, he said, asserting; ''bilateral effort made at all and at any level will not help.'' Sheikh Aziz is not averse to holding peace talks with New Delhi if, before hand, it accepts the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir. As he has no faith left in New Delhi ''there must be a guarantee from international community that whatever decisions are taken will be implemented in letter and spirit.'' He fully supports the latest proposals put forward by Hizbul Mujahideen. ''If India is sincere and wants peace to return to the region she must seize the opportunity,'' he said. Prof. Abdul Gani''s formula of bifurcating the Hurriyat Conference executive to simultaneously hold negotiations with Governments of India and Pakistan is not a bad idea either, he added. ''The rejection of it by India shows it is not sincere at all,'' he alleged. Sheikh Aziz admitted that some ''top'' Central officials met him in prison to seek his cooperation in resolving the issue amicably. All they wanted from him was to ''be flexible in your demand.'' But Sheikh Aziz replied that being a prisoner he could do nothing. Asked if he was approached again after a Tada court set him free last week, he said: ''No, they didn''t.'' He is certain that the Kashmiri campaign has reached a stage wherein no individual can take a decision on his own. ''All of us ought to sit together and decide our future course of action,'' he said. During public rallies he addresses, he keeps repeating: ''no one how soever high he may be would be allowed to build castles over the graves of our martyrs.'' Sheikh Aziz is optimistic about the US and its allies playing a positive role in the resolution of Kashmir dispute. ''When they can do it in West Asia, Bosnia and East Timor why not in Kashmir.'' He dopesn''t feel that Washington is actually trying to serve its own interests. ''I don''t see any wrong in what they are doing as long as they do it in the interest of peace and humanity.'' He, however, is opposed to the idea of trifurcating the state on religious or ethnic grounds as is being suggested by some people. He is also against making the Line of Control a permanent international border between Pakistan and India. ''We Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs living across the state are one and nobody can separate us,'' he said, asserting that minorities like Kashmiri pandits would not hesitate in joining the struggle for azadi. ''In fact they are already there and what is emanating from Leh is there actually because of the Indian machinations to divide our population,'' he alleged. Asked how could he expect Buddhists or Dogras to support the secessionists'' campaign which could also mean making Kashmir part of Pakistan, he retorted: ''Why not. Aren''t minorities safe there (Pakistan)?''