Days after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that the government was ready to talk but Hurriyat leaders refused to talk and snubbed all-party delegation in 2016, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said there was “never any official invite or any attempt by the Government of India” to reach out to the Hurriyat.
He said the Centre’s entire approach and agenda was military-driven, and that “there is absolutely no political process or thought in terms of dealing with Kashmir. They are dealing with Kashmir as we have seen in the last three or four years with an iron fist and their military policy is what is guiding BJPs policy on Kashmir.”
On the main issue, the political dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, on which talks and deliberations should be held, “there was never any clarity on that”, he added. Stating that Singh’s statement was not based on fact, Mirwaiz said that the Hurriyat and Joint resistance Leadership (JRL) had stated on record that “we want to engage and we want to see a political solution to this problem and we have always maintained that we want to engage with both India and Pakistan”.
On the Centre’s special representative Dineshwar Sharma’s attempts at holding talks with the Hurriyat, Mirwaiz said, “This exercise is not going to yield anything because in the past also we have seen interlocutors and special representatives coming and giving their reports. All these reports have never been taken up by the Government of India.”
The 45-year-old Mirwaiz, who spent 162 days in house arrest in 2017, said that the last time the NDA was in power, they reached out to the government and there was an “understanding” when Vajpayee wrote that they would deal with Kashmir in the ambit of humanity. “And not only did we engage with the Government of India, but the GoI facilitated our visit to Pakistan and then we engaged with the government in Pakistan. There was a triangular approach. That is the only way out,” Mirwaiz emphasised.
He said the Hurriyat hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would revisit that policy but that never happened, and it was clear that the government wanted to use military might and suppress the voice of the people.
“When Modi was elected, we welcomed it, but unfortunately, it’s been a disappointment and now we have reached a point where we are in a situation where we are seeing political saturation at every level. All the space that was there for the Hurriyat and for political parties to engage was taken away, and we have seen the worst kind of violations in the past three years.”
Mirwaiz underscored that the government needs to realise that blocking the space for conversation has led to a situation where “anger, hate and resentment against India has gone up” and “they accuse us of inciting stone-pelters and a whole misinformation campaign was launched against us, but the fact is that two years down the line, what is happening is much worse. See what is happening in South Kashmir with young boys, it is very painful for us. But that is what their policy is. It is very clear that this is what the BJP has in mind.”
Asserting that “polls are not an alternative for a referendum”, Mirwaiz said, “When we say boycott polls, it is because time and again, GoI has been selling this as people’s vote for Indian rule to continue.” He said that under the garb of nationalism, “every space for debate and discussion has been lost. We have never seen so much hate and anger against India that we see today among the youth. Who is responsible for that? It’s the Government of India’s own policy.”
Mirwaiz cautioned that by completely isolating and trying to marginalise the political players, the Hurriyat and JRL, “what they have done is that they have left that space open. That vacuum has created a situation where people have lost hope of any political movement forward. Dialogue has become a word people have lost trust in.”
He also blamed the Congress and other mainstream parties for their lack of initiative. “Mr Chidambaram speaks of Kashmir every day but during his time, they did nothing. Whether it’s Congress or BJP or for that matter Left parties or regional parties, the time has come to take a broader look at what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir.”
On engagement with Pakistan, he said that India’s condition — that ‘talks cannot be pursued in the midst of terrorist bloodshed’ — does not hold since “99 per cent of the militancy is local. Nobody can buy this theory that they are trying to sell, that Pakistan is instigating. This is all localised anger, and anger against the state because it is Kashmiris who are dying.”
He said this was deliberate since India does not want to engage, “Probably BJP has nothing to offer at this juncture, neither to the government in Pakistan nor to the people of Kashmir. They don’t want to talk, that’s why this pretext.”
Noting that since Imran Khan came to power in Pakistan, “more than once he has tried to reach out to the Indian government and to Mr Modi, but he has always been rebuffed and that is sad”.
With general elections around the corner, “I don’t think they will engage. This was a time to build on something, but unfortunately a lot of time was wasted,” he said.