Omar for autonomy; Geelani for ‘only Pakistan, no Azadi’
7 October 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani today made it categorically clear that separation from India and accession to Pakistan was the 'one-odd solution' to the vexed Kashmir problem. Amid a pro-Pakistan demonstration at his Hyperpora residence, he said that he would never allow inclusion of the option of Azadi (Independence) in implementation of the United Nations resolutions. He also opposed the proposal of opening Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road, claiming that it was 'India’s agenda' and thus detrimental to the 'Kashmir cause'. In his three-hour-long interaction with the delegation of the Pakistani journalists, Geelani defended Dukhtaraan- e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi—who has questioned the integrity of the visiting media team—but he labelled Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as 'New Delhi’s puppet, imposed upon the suppressed Kashmiris'. He said that opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was India’s brainchild, which was being promoted by Mufti Sayeed. Mufti, he said, was exploiting the sentiments of Kashmiri nation with the slogan of Muzaffarabad Road. Geelani, who is the chairman of his own faction of Hurriyat Conference as also the head of lately floated 'Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Kashmir', argued that the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road in the present circumstances would be 'highly detrimental to the Kashmir cause' as it would, according to him, dilute Pakistan’s 57-year-long stand vis-a-vis Jammu & Kashmir. He said that he would oppose the idea of Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service tooth and nail. Regarding the option of Azadi, Geelani told his Pakistani guests that it would be feasible neither for Kashmir, nor for India, Pakistan or China. 'An independent Kashmir will certainly become a haven for the world’s imperialist forces, who will use it for their own interests', Geelani said. 'Jammu and Kashmir’s destiny is tied to only Pakistan. There’s no other solution', he added. Geelani said in very categorical terms that there was no justification for an independent Kashmir and he would never allow inclusion of the third option in implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir. He contended that Jammu and Kashmir would have to be necessarily either with India or with Pakistan. Demanding right of self-determination for the people of Jammu & Kashmir as per the UN resolutions, Geelani said that he would happily accept the verdict of the majority even if it went in favour of India. He, however, added that Jammu and Kashmir had its 'religious and cultural bondage' with only Pakistan. He alleged that in order to retain the 'disputed state' on gunpoint, New Delhi had been imposing her 'puppets like Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed' on the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Geelani dismissed Mufti’s healing touch policy as a hoax and claimed that innocent Kashmiris were continuously being lifted and lodged in jails without trial and the rot of custodial killings was unabated. 'Even if India will lay gold on Kashmir’s roads instead of coaltar, it will not match the blood of thousands of our martyrs. We’ll fight until we get the right of self-determination implemented', he asserted. He said that even 20 lakh troops, instead of 8 lakh, would fail to stop Kashmiris from achieving their goal. While defending Asiya Andrabi, Geelani explained to the Pakistani delegation that her apprehensions were not misplaced. He agreed to Asiya that arrival of Pakistani nationals in Jammu and Kashmir on Indian visa and hospitality would be directly harmful to the Kashmiris cause. He said that the Dukhtaraan chief had been genuinely fighting for the Kashmir cause and she had raised relevant questions. According to Geelani, everything becomes suspect when India does not allow Amnesty International, Asia Watch and ICRC to operate in Kashmir and it allows a delegation of Pakistani journalists to visit the 'disputed State'. 'However, I believe, you are all respected and credible mediapersons and your presence may not be harmful to our cause. I am hopeful that you will report the Indian repression and convince the Government of Pakistan to continue her moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmir struggle', he addressed the Pakistani journalists. He expressed his apprehensions that the aspirations of the Kashmiris could be ignored in the apparent texture of friendship between India and Pakistan. He told the Pakistani guests that there was no scope of the Kashmiri’s talks with New Delhi until Government of India declared Kashmir a disputed territory, withdrew Armed Forces Special Powers Act, reduced the number of its troops and released the detainees. No passport, no visa Geelani’s rhetoric on opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road was undone by the National Conference (NC) president Omar Abdullah when the Pakistani journalists had a thorough interaction with the NC leaders at Nawai Subah complex this afternoon. When the journalists asked Omar’s comments on the subject, he said 'Yes, indeed. It will harm his (Geelani’s) cause. Average Kashmiri will benefit from it'. His implication was that the Kashmiris’ cause was different from Geelani’s personal one. He said that his party was in favour of opening all communication links between the two parts of Kashmir. In reply to a question, which the Pakistani journalists asked every host in Srinagar, Omar opined that the old system of travel documents be revived for visiting of Kashmiris in all territories of the State. He said that long back, Police and local officers used to issue travel documents for such visits. He was clearly supportive of the suggestion that there should be no passports or visas for the travel of state subjects in any part of the undivided State. He contended that such an arrangement would be embarrassing neither for India nor for Pakistan. When the visiting journalists desired to know how the elections of low turnout were credible, Omar asked them to get confused in amalgamation of the issues. He clarified that elections in the State were being held for the purpose of representation of people in the governance and there were a many factors responsible for a high or low turnout. 'Vajpayee had just 35% turnout in his Lucknow constituency. Does it mean that the remaining 65% had rejected the democratic process?', he explained. As regards the low turnout in Kashmir, Omar explained to the Pakistani journalists that the reputation of candidates, local issues and security environment were important factors in all segments. He said that in most of the rural segments there was 50 to 60% turnout in all the elections held since 1996 but in some urban segments of Srinagar it was just 1%. He claimed that with 28 MLAs, his party, NC, was the single largest political party in the entire State as it had representative MLAs from all the three regions. 'National Conference is the largest political party but don’t say that we are the only representatives of the people', he added. Asked how credible were the Assembly elections of 2002, Omar said that 'completely free and fair' elections were impossible when there were thousands of guns around. He said that still, Kashmiris had been positively responsive to the electoral process. Asked why his party lost, Omar said 'If we lost, nobody won. There was not a definitive pattern in those elections. For example, we got just one seat in Anantnag district but we bagged four of the five segments in Kupwara district'. Omar admitted that the separatist leaders had emerged as heroes in 1990 when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris participated in their Azadi rallies. 'But that all lasted till 1994. Today, I challenge all of them—except Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, who has a traditional votebank—to arrange a rally of 10,000 people in any part of Kashmir, on any slogan', he added. He claimed that the politics of confusion and pursuing unattainable goals had discredited Kashmir’s separatist leaders. He said that there was a mass based separatist movement with 100% Kashmiri militants in it in 1990-94. Thereafter, he said, it was completely hijacked by foreigners. He claimed that in today’s militancy, there were more than 60% foreign, non-Kashmiri cadres. Omar Abdullah told the Pakistani journalists plainly that his party was for ending armed terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Greater autonomy In one of the most impressive presentations among all Kashmiri leaders, Omar told his Pakistani guests that his party was unambiguously for restoration of the greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. He argued that within the framework of the Indian constitution, it was the only possible viable solution to the Kashmir problem. Nevertheless, he added, that in case India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir worked out any other solution by consensus, NC would not gladly accept it. When the Pakistani journalists asked for Omar’s comments to Mufti Sayeed’s healing touch policy, he told them that it had proved to be a complete failure. He claimed that in the last two years, Screening Committee had met only once and released just a few PSA detainees while as, he said, during the NC regime it would meet every Friday to review the cases and set free the prisoners. He said that Mufti had scored political points on POTA but he had not revoked similar draconian laws like PSA. Omar referred to the recently released annual report of the State Human Rights Commission and argued that the human rights situation had not improved during the PDP-led coalition Government. The journalists had dinner with Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.