Don’t make Kashmir dialogue tactic to bide time: Mirwaiz (Interview)September 14th, 2010 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS
By George Joseph
New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should not be under the misconception that an employment package would solve the crisis in Kashmir, says moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, stressing that it is not an “unemployment problem” but an “international political issue”.
“Manmohan Singh should not think that announcing an employment package will solve the Kashmir issue. It is not an unemployment problem. It is an international political issue,” the Mirwaiz, who heads the moderate faction of Jammu and Kashmir’s separatist Hurriyat Conference, told IANS in a phone interview from Srinagar.
The Indian government, he said, should show seriousness about solving the problem and not use the dialogue promise as a tactic to bide time.
Discussing the proposed all party meeting on Kashmir to be held Wednesday, the Mirwaiz said: “Indian leaders should become honest enough to admit the realities in Kashmir and recall that it is an international issue submitted by their own leaders before the UN. They should not plan cosmetic announcements, sops and symbolic gestures.”
As the violence in Kashmir spirals — with 18 people killed Monday, taking to 88 the toll of those who have lost their lives in the present phase of violence that began June 11 — the Mirwaiz believes that sections of the separatist leadership are united in their approach.
Referring to Syed Ali Geelani who heads the hardline faction of the Hurriyat and Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the Mirwaiz said: “On the current situation in Kashmir and the basic approach for solution, we all, I, Geelani Saheb and Yasin have a joint approach.
“From 81-year-old Geelani to the stone-pelting teenager on the roads, four generations of Kashmiris are eager for a solution to the 63-year-old issue,” said the 37-year-old Mirwaiz, who is also the head preacher of the Jama Masjid in Srinagar.
Referring to the current situation in the valley, the Hurriyat leader said: “It is a sad scenario where Kashmiris are not permitted space or time to mourn their dead who fall victims to the suppression by the security forces.”
The separatist leader detailed some steps to cool tempers in the turbulent valley — repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act; demilitarisation and removal of troops from urban centres; removal of bunkers, lifting of curfews and restrictions; release of political prisoners and the youths held in stone-pelting cases; a sincere effort to resume a dialogue with Kashmiri groups and between India, Pakistani and Kashmiris.
“I had put my personal safety at risk when we began a dialogue with the government of India in 2004. People in Kashmir were not fully convinced of our decision. They burnt our office, they burnt our school. Still, we cooperated with the dialogue process for peace in Kashmir and the subcontinent.”
Saying that “nothing substantial was done on the proposals made during the dialogue from 2004 to 2008″, he emphasised that the promise of a dialogue should not be aimed at “buying time and managing the situation in Kashmir for a while”.
“Cosmetic announcements would not work,” he declared.
Besides the Indian government, he said, political parties should also “show maturity”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in his view, should give up its rigid rhetoric and educate the people of India about realities in Kashmir.
“At great risk, we had joined the dialogue when their leader (former prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee approached us and said: ‘Let us start talking in the context of humanity’.”
“They should know it is not an issue between a Muslim Kashmir and a Hindu India.”
On Sunday, the state government filed an FIR against the Mirwaiz for inciting violence at a massive rally he led to Srinagar’s city centre Lal Chowk soon after Eid prayers. He denied the charges and described the government action as a “desperate move to retrieve its sagging image”.
He was installed the Mirwaiz, a post held by his family for centuries, when he was just 17 following the killing of his father Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq by suspected Kashmiri militants in May 1990.
An alumnus of the prestigious Burn Hall School in Srinagar, he had wanted to become a software engineer. But fate had something else in store for this man, who became founder-chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference at the age of 20. He holds a masters degree in Islamic Studies from Cairo University.
(George Joseph can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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