New Delhi should start dialogue process, we will respond: Mirwaiz

‘All efforts be made to end cycle of violence in State’
Kashmir needs political, not military approach
Neeraj Rohmetra
SRINAGAR, June 20: Extending an olive branch to BJP led Government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today emphasised that Centre should take initiative to start the stalled dialogue process in the State and all such sincere efforts would get the desired response.
While talking to EXCELSIOR in an exclusive interview, Mirwaiz said, “with such massive mandate, it is responsibility of the Central Government to take forward the political process in the State and initiate all possible measures to put an end to the cycle of violence in the State”.
When told pointedly that the success of any such dialogue process would demand a positive response from his Hurriyat leadership, he said, “we will never shirk from our responsibility to take the political process forward and if Centre show sincerity and will respond in appropriate manner”, adding, “any initiative aimed to take the State out of turmoil would be welcome by all sections of society in Kashmir”. Dwelling on the process which need to be followed to resolve the political issue, he said, “New Delhi needs to initiate dialogue with the alienated section of Kashmiri society and simultaneously open channels with Pakistan. Similar exercise was done during the Vajpayee era, when despite several obstacles, the process was taken forward at different levels”.
“Dialogue can’t be restricted to statements, where one country keeping claiming Kashmir in its jugular vein and other sticks to the rhetoric of it being an integral part. We have to find a middle path for the welfare of people of Kashmir and violence has no place in any civilised society”, he added.
When asked that in view of existing chill between India-Pakistan relations are they ready for talks process with New Delhi, he said the Hurriyat leadership is ready to accept the talks offer first and later the neighbouring country can be involved. “We are willing to offer any help, let the process begin”, he added.
“Hurriyat leadership always existed as a buffer between the Government and the alienated section of society of Kashmir and we played that role despite the risks involved. This was quite evident the way we took the dialogue process forward with the Vajpayee led Government and also conveyed to Pakistani leadership the importance of the same”, he said.
“It was with the consent of Government of India that we went to Pakistan, started talking Musharraf and his four-point formula was supported by the Hurriyat, by me and others .We don’t intend to act a mediator, if the Government of India has objections to the same but, surely we can act as facilitator”, he asserted.
He added, “unfortunately, for the past few years, the Centre has stuck to the iron fist policy towards Kashmir and that is leading us nowhere. For nearly 10 years, we are put under house – arrest for one reason or other and are being pushed to the wall and these measures have led to further alienation of masses”.
Mirwaiz, who is religious and spiritual head of Kashmiri Muslims, said, “we condemn any form of violence in the State and are ready to take responsibility if sincere measures are initiated by the Centre”, adding, “with time, you also learn, realize and experience is the key. Now, I am into this for last 28-29 years and cannot completely shun the responsibility as Mirwaiz apart from the fact that Hurriyat is there. As a Mirwaiz and religious head of Kashmiri Muslims, having a history, having a background, legacy, I don’t want my future generations to get consumed in this unending conflict. We want some sort of middle path to be explored.
There is an ideology, there is an aspiration, there is a thought and we can’t ignore those realities. But yes, we can work with those aspirations for a peaceful and a lasting solution”. Asked why the Hurriyat leadership didn’t respond to the invite of the Parliamentary – led All-Party Delegation headed by the then Home Minister, Rajnath Singh in 2016, he said, “the whole situation has to be analysed in view of other circumstance that led to that situation and you have to first create the ground for talks”.
When told that every time the State inches toward the dialogue process, forces from across the border have created hurdles by inciting violence, he replied, “despite several obstacles, we have no choice but to engage Pakistan and hold dialogue. In the process, even we have suffered badly and I myself came under attack on several occasions. My house was burnt, my family paid a heavy price but today I am deeply disturbed to see the escalating levels of violence in the State and will more and more youth getting alienated”, adding, “how many generations we have lost?”
When told that there are different power centres in Pakistan and there is always uncertainty about the fate of dialogue, he said, “the new Government led by Imran Khan has on more than one occasion extended the offer for talks and therefore, we must give them a chance keeping aside the bitter experiences of the past. I know even Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his previous tenure also tried to improve ties with Pakistan, but things didn’t move in the right direction”.
“India needs to give at least one chance to the new political dispensation in Pakistan. We must again start the Confidence Building Measures (CBM) like cross- LoC trade, bus-service which were landmark initiatives of the previous Government”, he emphasised.
Elaborating further on the much-required dialogue process, he said, “another dimension of the process should be intra-regional dialogue between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The growing mistrust between the three regions does not augur well for the State and we must remember that nobody can separate the destiny of these regions”.
Asked if the Kashmir based mainstream political parties like National Conference (NC) and PDP also have a role in the entire process, he said, “these parties have a definite role and should be taken onboard when the political process begins”.
“Kashmir is a political issue and irrespective of the fact whether someone acknowledges it or not it we will need a political approach to resolve it. Across the board, there is a feeling in Kashmir it is purely and surely a political problem. There can be no military solution, there can be no solution through violence, there can be no solution through military means”, he added.
The Mirwaiz elaborated, “In fact, you kill one boy, several others are willing to join militancy. So I think, as a Kashmiri first of all, our view is that we don’t want these young boys to leave their families, their careers, their academics and join militancy and get consumed in the conflict, because at the end of the day, the fact remains that we have look at the reason why are these young people going into this direction. I personally feel as far as their view is concerned-they might differ in their ideology which is political and which can be religious at times, but we need to give them space and listen to their views”.
On the contentious issues of Art 370 and Art 35, Mirwaiz warned, “nothing should be done to further disturb the State and any such move would further alienate the masses”.
While referring to the issues of Kashmiri Pandits, he said, “My position as Mirwaiz is very clear. We should not be linking the issue of Kashmir with the return of Kashmiri Pandits. It is completely a humanitarian problem, we want them to come to their houses, live the way they were living in complete harmony with Muslims in Kashmir. We are ready to help in whatever way we can”.