November 3, 2015 2:44:10 am
Amid expectation in Srinagar that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will announce a long-awaited economic package when he visits the city later this week, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has said what is more important for Kashmir is a political initiative from the Modi government.
In an interview to The Indian Express, the Mirwaiz, who is perceived to be a moderate among the separatists and leads his own faction of the Hurriyat Conference, said the Hurriyat is ready to engage with the Centre in a “meaningful” political initiative but also stressed the importance of Pakistan in any such process.
He asked Prime Minister Modi, “(like) Vajpayee, announce a hand of friendship to Pakistan from here”.
“The Hurriyat stands for a meaningful dialogue for the resolution of Kashmir with both India and Pakistan,” he said.
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On his 13th visit to Jammu and Kashmir after coming to power last year, and his fifth visit to Srinagar, Modi is set to address a rally at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar on November 7. On the same day, he is to inaugurate the Baglihar II power project in Ramban.
There is high expectation here that the Prime Minister will unveil a financial package for the state that will include grants for post-flood rehabilitation and infrastructure development, which the ruling PDP has been demanding since it took office in coalition with the BJP in the state.
The Mirwaiz, who has thrown himself behind pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for a “million march” event at the TRC ground on the same day as the Prime Minister’s rally, said people need the money to rebuild lives, but a political initiative is more important.
“What we hear that this is going to be a visit where Rs 70,000 or 90,000 crore is going to be announced. Definitely after the floods, we need money, we need help. But then, not only an economic package. There has to be a political initiative. Engagement with Pakistan, engagement with Kashmiris, on the same lines as they were doing in the past. New Delhi has to reach out to both Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, and realise that they cannot always continue militarily,” he said.
“Nobody wants Mr Modi to come and talk about his mantra of development. The people of Kashmir have gone through a terrible time, they are still in terrible times. What we really need is a political approach by New Delhi. A certain amount of respect has to be shown to the people of Kashmir. Yes, we are in a difficult state… yes, money is needed, resources are needed. But New Delhi has to look beyond this, look at it from a political dimension, I would say from a human dimension, because there has been so much pain and suffering in Kashmir over the last 20 -25 years,” he said.
Asked if the Hurriyat would participate in talks with the government, the Mirwaiz said: “I would say not only with us, the whole initiative of Vajpayee, where he was talking with Pakistan, and talking with the Kashmiris as well. When they talk about Kashmiris, PDP is already an ally, National Conference is not a problem for them, but yes, talking with the Hurriyat definitely is something we believe that cannot be overlooked, and same case is talking with Pakistan.”
“May be it’s high time for (Modi), the way in which Vajpayee came and announced his hand of friendship towards Pakistan from here, may be it’s high time he does the same thing. If he does that, definitely there will be takers for that in Kashmir,” he said.
But there is a “general impression that the present dispensation has a different take on Kashmir, it is not following the Vajpayee line. Even when the Prime Minister came here before, he never touched on the political aspect of the problem… he avoided talking about the real political issue,” he said.
On militancy, the Mirwaiz said: “Generally speaking, I feel New Delhi is pushing people to the wall again. I fear resurgence in violence, I fear for whatever we have tried to do over the last 10 years… in whatever way, tried to convince Delhi, Islamabad that it’s in the interest of the people of Kashmir that talks start again, that there are negotiations. Otherwise, the cycle of violence can restart. That is definitely a concern at this juncture.”
The “resurgence” in militant activity, he said, is linked to the “feeling that there is no room for any peaceful activity. In the last three years, the Hurriyat has hardly been allowed any space on the ground. We cannot have political rallies, we cannot have a dharna, we are not allowed Friday prayers, Eid prayers.”
“So, what message is trickling down to the common and young men, to whom we have been saying we want to engage, want to find a solution through peaceful means. They are saying this is all talk, there is nothing on the ground. These people — 14-year-old, 13-year-old — (they are) coming out on the streets, they throw stones, get arrested. They are booked under the PSA for a year or two. They come out of jails hardened,” he said.
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