By Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi
Kashmir is on the boil again, and this time the credit goes to its people. The people of Kashmir want this conflict to end once and for all. Even though the government of India is trying, both politically and diplomatically, to minimize the damage, the cry from the valley is echoing across the globe. For Mirwaiz Moulvi Muhammad Umar Farooq, the Chairman of the Awami Action Committee and All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the issue is much more than just employment and autonomy. This time, it is about freedom.
It seems that the Kashmir movement has lost its focus? Is it about issues related to development or about the right to self-determination?
Unfortunately people of India are not aware of the actual problem in Kashmir. They think that the problem is about employment, jobs, autonomy etc. This is a wrong perception. The people of Kashmir have given sacrifices for their rights. The right of self determination is the basic demand of our struggle. It is important to understand the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. It is the same aspiration that people of united India had it against the British rule. If Kosovo can get this right to decide then we have a much stronger case.
Indian government says it is keen to solve the issue but no tangible results have come out so far. Where is the deadlock?
The problem lies with the Indian army and the Indian governmentâ€™s approach. They should tell people of India the truth about Kashmir. Kashmir is not Punjab, Assam or for that matter not Delhi. Kashmir is a disputed territory. Even the Indian parliament should realize that the Kashmir solution cannot come from Parliament resolutions. They have to realize that Kashmir conflict cannot be solved internally. It has to be solved externally.
There is also another fear that because of volatility in Kashmir, extremists and Jehadist elements aggravate the situation. How do you react to such criticism?
Indian establishment and the Indian Army have accepted the fact that there is no more militancy in the Kashmir struggle. There is no infiltration coming up now. This acceptance actually reflects that the Kashmir struggle has transformed from a violent one to a non-violent one. You have seen that in the last five-six years, the Kashmir movement is now based on peaceful protests and struggle. There have been no bomb or fidayin attacks in Kashmir in the last two years.
Yes, the army has claimed several encounters and the killing of terrorists. Six months ago India claimed that they killed four militants in an operation. But later, it was proved that those who were killed were not militants. They were civilians and the army officer who killed them did this to earn medals and promotions. There was an army captain who was told that if you kill militants you will be rewarded. Though we donâ€™t have any source or list upon which we could investigate such cases; one thing is very clear that Kashmir movement is not based on militancy. It is in-fact progressing politically.
How can you satisfy the concerns of Kashmiri Pandits?
Kahsmiri Pandits are not directly involved in the conflict. We have never linked the return of Pandits to the solution of Kashmir. But even if the Kashmir issue is not solved for example, in the next ten years, it does not mean that Kashmiri Pandits cannot come home. We always want them to come back home. The fact is that there are many who have returned home where many Christians, Sikhs and Budhists live. They have no problem. I feel that the government of India, particularly BJP and Hindu extremists, are exploiting the Pandit issue by saying that they are not safe here. This is not true. We want Pandits to come back and live their lives in their home. We will always welcome them, support them. They are part of us. So there is no such issue at all.
How do you evaluate the response of the Indian media?
There is no doubt that the Indian media doesnâ€™t want to come out of the stereotype when it comes to the independence of Kashmir. Apparently, they look sympathetic towards us. But certainly freedom of Kashmiri is a taboo issue for them particularly when it comes to national interest. It is sad that Indian media wants to act liberally and accepts that there is a strong demand for freedom in Kashmir. But on the other hand, they donâ€™t want to debate the possibility of giving freedom to Kashmiris.