November 2016 News

'Geelani Not A Maharaja'

28 November 2016
Kashmir Monitor
Mubashir Bukhari

Srinagar: His recent acerbic words 'blind riders on lame horses' attributed to Joint Hurriyat leadership have created ripples in the Separatist camp but the ever canny senior Hurriyat leader, Abdul Gani Bhat still has a lot more to say. In a candid face to face interview with The Kashmir Monitor's Senior Correspondent, Mubashir Bukhari, Gani opens up on his life, Hurriyat, and the issue of Kashmir. KM: Recently you released your autobiography 'Beyond Me'? What was the inspiration behind writing it and what revelations have you made in it? AGB: I was a professor and I lived with boys and books. Occasionally, if I produce a book it should not be a cause of concern to anyone. The book is about me. I wrote what I experienced as an individual, as a professor and to some extent as a political activist as well. KM: You earlier have said that something went wrong in 2008, 2010 agitations and this year's uprising is leading towards the same. Why do you feel so and what, as per you, should instead be done? AGB: The dispute on Kashmir is as simple as it is complex. In politics, we have to learn and proceed with strategies. Till we don't work out on scientifically objective strategy to deal with the situation, we will land nowhere. If you just choose to live with the roar of slogans, you are not going to reach anywhere. I don't know whether the separatist leadership has any strategy or not but I think if they don't have one, we will reach somewhere but not there where we want to. Not reaching the set goals would eventually mean that you have achieved nothing out of the struggle. KM: What are those mistakes which you think the separatist leadership has made in the past and how do you see the 2016 uprising? AGB: What is gone is gone; I don't want to waste my time thinking about what has happened in 2008 or 2010. But 2016 uprising is different. It happened because Burhan was killed. Burhan with the traditional anger and collective discontent against India was the main reason. His death inspired the youth of Kashmir to come on streets and be at the forefront of the agitation. KM: You were not happy about Joint Hurriyat refusing to talk to visiting parliamentarians? Do you think if Hurriyat had deliberated with them, it would have made any difference? AGB: Hurriyat should have talked to the parliamentarians and put across their thoughts. So that when they returned to New Delhi they would have informed the government about what's happening in Kashmir. But unfortunately Hurriyat leaders refused to meet them. If we talked to them in 2008 and 2010, why not now! If nothing would have come out of the meeting, we could have atleast fought it out telling them 'look we talked to you but it is all useless because when you reach Delhi, you don't take our suggestions seriously'. KM: But in the past, when a team of interlocutors talked to the separatists, the report was grounded and nothing concrete came out of the meeting. Given that, wasn't Joint Hurriyat's refusal genuine this time? AGB: I don't know what went wrong last time - was it a mistake of India, Pakistan or separatists or all of us - but today is different. I don't want to waste by breath on yesterday; I want a brighter tomorrow and for that we need to rise above yesterday, rise above hostility and rise above ranker. We need to address issues courageously and with a mission to ensure a prosperous sub-continent. KM: You have not attended a single meeting chaired by joint Hurriyat camp during the last four months. Reasons? AGB: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was represented by its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. You don't need everybody everywhere. Nobody is indispensible, when heads of two Hurriyat forums and one single party (JKLF) are joining hands, not every member is required for the approval. I might not have felt comfortable with the decision but I was party to it because my chairman was there. KM: Some insiders in the Hurriyat camp say that you have personal animosity with Syed Ali Shah Geelani? Is it true? If so, on what terms? AGB: I have no problem with Geelani but I differ with his politics. He (Geelani) is not the Maharaja of Kashmir and I am not the Yuvraj of Kashmir. No sir, I have my own ideas and he has his own. He has every right to pursue his path and I have every right to pursue mine. Geelani Sahab should not have gone out of APHC and that was the first thing that I didn't like about him. And then he launched a rival political forum but I didn't deny him the right to do so. This is true I didn't like it and I expect him to say the same thing. KM: Are you are against the reconstitution of APHC? AGB: I have grown as a member of a forum rather than a party. I started as a member, rather as a chief spokesman of Muslim United Front (MUF). And MUF broke for reasons I won't be able to explain. When it broke, I belonged to APHC and I never wanted APHC to meet the same fate as of MUF. I want people who have gone out of APHC to get back to it. APHC comprised of seven parties. If that happens I will feel happy because we will have Jamaat-e-Islami, JKLF back on board and that is good. KM: Who will head APHC if it is reconstituted? AGB: We believe in collective leadership and not in individual leaders. I am not against Geelani heading a party but if you belong to a forum everybody is a leader. A forum comprises of parties and they have their own leaders. What you are talking about is creating a single leader - like a 'Marshal Tito'. KM: You called joint Hurriyat leadership as a 'Blind rider on a Lame horse'? What did you exactly mean? AGB: It was a proverbial narration that if you don't have a strategy whoever you are or whatever the situation you are in, you will be like a blind rider on a lame horse. KM: Being a senior Hurriyat member, you yourself take potshots at other Hurriyat leaders. Why so? AGB: Unfortunately if I choose to differ on a particular issue, you shouldn't consider it as confrontational. It is in the interest of functional politics that you subject each issue to threadbare discussion. If you hold an opinion, it shouldn't be misunderstood as a hostile attitude. It is in the interest of political thinking that you take a position and then in the ultimate analysis decide either by a consensus or by a majority vote. KM: How do you see the overall situation in Kashmir now? How is it different from other agitations? AGB: I see Kashmir issue as a danger to the stability of not only the south Asian region but to the stability of the other countries around this region as well. It is a huge problem, much bigger than the entire south Asia, therefore I see Kashmir as a dispute which needs to be taken seriously for the larger interest of people and stability in the region. India and Pakistan have to talk and resolve this dispute. They have to resolve it in any case. If they don't do it, it will lead to a disaster. KM: You are not happy with the prolonged strikes. As per you, what could be the alternative to it? AGB: Kashmir problem has to be looked at from different angles. It is not only the 'agitation-angle' we need to focus on, we have to lend our attention to other dimensions as well. It has a sub-continental as well as an international dimension to it. And now Kashmir is linked with the future of the entire south-Asian region. The strikes happen because of the excesses by forces on Kashmiris. I believe India and Pakistan should engage in purposeful, meaningful dialogue for the stability of entire south Asian region. That is what is important. Being nuclear arsenal equipped countries, I don't think both the countries will be able to fight a war. KM: You are saying talks are the only way out. But they are not happening? Then what's the alternative? AGB: There is absolutely no alternative available with either Pakistan or India other than talks. Dialogue is more important than those threats they time and again unleash against each other. We should understand that without dialogue nothing can happen. Kashmir is rooted in the political history of sub-continent. India and Pakistan came into existence in 1947 and since then these two countries fought many wars on Kashmir. KM: In the absence of dialogue, do you consider armed struggle as one of the alternatives? AGB: There is no doubt in it that armed struggle was part of the movement in Kashmir. But now the situation has changed. The only alternative left with India and Pakistan and for that matter for the people of Kashmir, is dialogue. KM: Do you prefer merger with India, Pakistan, or a separate Kashmir? AGB: There are some people who say United Nations resolutions should be implemented in Kashmir. When they talk about UN resolutions, they rule out the possibility of a third option that is of an independent Kashmir and the people who choose to do the talking, they rule out the possibility of merger either with Pakistan and India or to be independent. What is important is that when you start a dialogue, Pakistan and India including people of Kashmir have to keep these considerations in mind. All these parties have to move with imagination; secondly they should introduce an element of flexibility in their approach and attitude and lastly they have to be courageous to work under pressure. KM: How do you see BJP's entrance into Kashmir politics? AGB: If people voted BJP to power, it is their decision and if you consider Jammu as a part of Kashmir you have to accept it. If you are a democrat, you will have to accept BJP as a political group from Jammu. If you contest elections in Kashmir whether you are NC, Congress, PDP or some other group you have to accept a political arrangement of Kashmir with India. Then if you join hands with one another, it doesn't matter. I have taken a position on principle that Kashmir is a dispute and those people have taken a different position and they say Kashmir is not a dispute and is an integral part of India. KM: Do you prefer seeing yourself as a leader or a follower? Bhat: It's is not easy to assign the role of a leadership to oneself. A leader is one who leads not follows and who can see a future and rise above ordinary considerations of caste, creed and colour. A leader is one who can hear the collective heartbeat and has perfect understanding of dynamics of situation obtaining anywhere in a given region, state or country. I am not a leader and have no pretentions to be rated as a leader. KM: You were a close friend of Late Mufti Sayeed. Do you miss him? How is Mehbooba different as a leader when compared to her father? AGB: Mufti Sayeed was always my friend. When he lived, he was my friend and when he is no more he continues to hold the same space in my heart. His style of working is different from that of his daughter. I don't want to elaborate any further on that. KM: Will you ever join mainstream politics? Bhat: I want mainstream parties be it NC, Congress, PDP or other to joins hands with us and consider a resolution conjointly calling upon India and Pakistan to resume the stalled dialogue on Kashmir and resolve the dispute to the flutter of all hearts across the globe. KM: Do you think mainstream parties will ever join hands with separatists to help solve the long pending Kashmir dispute? AGB: I don't know whether they will do it or not. But if they do it will be a landmark decision in our political understanding of the situation. If they don't do it, they shall be answerable to their own collective conscience.