National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Monday said militants in Kashmir were “on their own” and advocated that the mainstream parties and separatist groups should join hands to end the sufferings of the people. In a freewheeling interview with PTI here, Abdullah, a three-time former chief minister, said he did not know if any political groups, including separatists, were relevant in the valley today.
“I do not know who is relevant because boys are on their own. I don’t think anybody controls them or anybody is their master,” Abdullah said. He said the situation in the valley demanded that the mainstream parties and separatist political groups join hands to end the sufferings of the people. “What is necessary today is for all of us — whether mainstream or separatists — to come together to end this tragedy which is affecting this valley for so many years,” Abdullah said.
The Lok Sabha member from Srinagar said he was hopeful that the youth of Kashmir would realise the futility of violence in all forms including stone pelting. “This is affecting their education, daily life is thrown into misery and today only thing that we have to save for our future is tourism…Our Prime Minister also mentioned in his speech that tourism would give so much money that not only state would be able to enjoy that but the nation would get benefitted.
“Our lifeline is tourism and this conflict continues to destroy the very existence of Kashmir tourism,” he said.
Abdullah said it was not only Kashmiris who were responsible for the tragedy unfolding in the valley as Pakistan was pushing militants into Kashmir. “If Pakistan stopped infiltrating militants into the valley, probably this situation would have settled long time ago. The tragedy is that they have vested interests in the valley and they have people who support their movement,” he said.
The National Conference leader said the Centre will have to take steps similar to those taken by former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh — dialogue with Pakistan. “By having some sort of workable relations, India and Pakistan will settle Kashmir dispute. Without talks, I don’t see any forward movement. I have always said that if we wait for the last bullet to be fired that is not going to happen.
“So let us catch the bull by its horn now. I am sure that there are people on both sides who want peace, prosperity and progress of both nations,” he said.
On the unilateral halt in security operations during Ramzan announced by the Centre, Abdullah said it was a very welcome step. “We hoped that Pakistan would also reciprocate as it had done in Vajpayee’s time. All the parties, separatists and others had welcomed the step at that time. Today, the situation is different.” “Separatists have not accepted it, Pakistan’s response is not forthcoming. So we are in a fix whether it will be truly effective and we will have peace like in Vajpayee’s tenure when we had peace for many years,” he added.
Abdullah sidestepped a question on whether a special bond was developing between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Prime Minister has to think about all nation. He is Prime Minister of everyone. I remember Vajpayee-ji was an RSS man and he had 23 parties that he was able to lead and lead successfully because he realised that this nation is diverse and that diversity has to be strengthened to make this nation prosperous and progressing.”
“I hope and pray that Modi-ji will also follow the same path of unity and diversity and strengthen diversity for prosperity of nation,” he said.
Invoking Vajpayee’s “friends can be changed, neighbours cannot be” quote, Abdullah appealed to India and Pakistan to forget past tragedies and move forward as friendly nations. “We can either live in harmony with each other and progress or live in animosity and progress of both nations will be hampered. With this, I would say to both nations please forget past tragedies and let us move forward as friendly nations so that we can stand before the world with head held high,” he said.
He said his National Conference wants peace in the state and prays that both India and Pakistan will improve relations so that both nations progress. “We have always appealed to both countries that if you want us to survive as normal human beings, relationship between India and Pakistan has to be good,” he added.