“Separatists in Kashmir are divided on everything, But united in destroying Jammu and Kashmir”
In an exclusive interview with K N Pandita Daily Excelsior Special Correspondent Hashim Qureshi, the Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party reflected on various aspects of Kashmir politics, past and present. He has been in close touch with Kashmir politics since his return from Holland in 2000, and since a long time has been writing forcefully on Kashmir situation. Following is the summarised interview he gave to our correspondent at his residence in Nishat in Srinagar.
Q: You are the founder of Kashmir Liberation Front whose mission is liberation of entire Jammu and Kashmir from three neighbouring countries. You have been a strong advocate of non-violence as is reflected from your sustained writings. But JKLF started its mission in Kashmir in late 1989 by brandishing the gun. Is it not contradiction in the word and deed of JKLF?
A: I founded JKLF when I was in ”Azad Kashmir. After Maqbul Bhat’s martyrdom we considered only civil disobedience not gun as the instrument for freedom. Pakistani intelligence authorities contacted me in Rawalpindi in 1985. They proposed luring Kashmiri youth to Pakistani training camps set up in “AJK”. Its detail will appear in my biography now under compilation. After a week’s training, they would be sent back to Kashmir to indulge in subversion. I rejected ISI’s proposal saying that I stood for independence of not only Indian but also Pakistani controlled part of our State. Moreover, I said, I would not be a party to any proposal that entails killing and destruction of Kashmiri youth. When elections to State Assembly in 1986-87 were rigged and MUF candidates beaten and abused, NC provided grist to militant machinery. ISI, having hooked Amanullah Khan in the meanwhile, succeeded in pushing its subversive mission in Kashmir through the Amanullah Khan faction of JKLF. Motivation for Kashmiri youth to cross the border and join the training camps was a mixture of resentment against monopolization of power by the NC-Congress regime, patronage by ISI and whipping up of religious sentiments by Jamaat-i-Islami propaganda machine. Large scale proliferation of Kalashnikov in Kashmir was the new and ominous scenario. Soon ISI betrayed JKLF and launched fundamentalist groups to give the struggle religious colour.
Q: You usually caution separatists and pro-Pak groups against disunity. However, when militants conduct an attack on police post or communication towers or on civilians, the separatists and pro-Pak groups remain tight lipped. But in a chance killing of a civilian by the security forces, all these separatists combine to protest and demand inquiry. How can one say they are not united?
A: Separatists in Kashmir are divided on everything but united in destroying the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If they were united, they would reject the gun, call for strikes, calls for election boycott etc. meaning everything that destroys the economy of Kashmir. Those who receive hefty cash doles from foreign benefactors have to keep the pot boiling. They must do something to disrupt normal life here. These groups are completely united in filling their begging bowls with charity doles and then undertake adventures in which they kill each other or destroy Kashmir. Hence they adopt varying methods to tell their benefactors that they commit no fault in carrying out their agenda like raising meaningless slogans, throwing stones, damaging public property and calling for strikes. One who tells the truth is labelled as Indian agent. This is the stick with which they are quick to punish their opponents. What is their plan for “azaadi” or “accession to Pakistan”? Will such activates as they are indulging in going to get them anything? The entire Kashmiran society is a captive of fear and suspicion.
Q: How do you see the current situation in J&K?
A: This government has no regular policy so to say. It runs on just day to day business. Resources are used in wrong way and peoples’ problems are left unresolved. What policy can a party hammer out when it enters into deals with separatist in elections? Who does not know that Mufti and his party were overtly supported by the Jamaati-i-Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen? Why does not Mehbooba Mufti join the condolence parties of killed activists and shed tears at the funeral of militants now? Did not the National Conference seek the support of separatists? All this is known to the government agencies and New Delhi. These people get importance and publicity by indulging in stone throwing and waving Pakistani flags. And sadly India succumbs to those who perpetrate violence. Who are these people who are waving the flags of murderers and cannibals calling themselves Islamists of the Caliphate? Mr. Cameroon, Prime Minister of United Kingdom is right in saying that these groups should not be called Islamic. Wherefrom has this so-called Islamic State come? The holy prophet forgave the killers of his uncle Hamza. Dash cuts throats of innocent people. Entire world especially the Islamic world is against them; Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and many other Islamic countries are against them and waging war against them. UN has also condemned it. And lo and behold, here some people working on the behest of their handlers are waving the flag of Dash. What message are they giving to the world about the freedom movement of Kashmiris? Pro-Pakistan activists are now seen waving the flag of Dash alongside the Pakistani flag in parts of Kashmir. What impression will the world get about Pakistani society when Dash flag is waved along with Pakistani flag? I can say that doing such things is in fact a conspiracy against Pakistan itself.
Q: It is also believed that separatists do not want an actual stabilisation of Kashmir because it serves their private financial purpose and also the conflict has given them an identity which they might not have in the absence of it. How do you see that?
A: Separatists are active on the behest of an entity that has occupied part of Kashmir territory. The two occupying countries are engaged in a proxy war in Kashmir. Both have hired agents in Kashmir. Obviously the hired agents have no qualms of conscience and that is the reason why they are the most corrupt politicians one can imagine. They have no cause and no commitment. It is true that through their clandestine role, they have found their identity. Otherwise they are nondescript persons. Pakistan TV linked to vast network profiles them in larger than life size. How many of them are on the payroll of ISI is anybody’s guess? Therefore why should not Pakistan media give them wide publicity? What is the vision for Jammu region as a part of independent Kashmir? We nationalists in both parts of the State believe that Maharaja Gulab Singh is the father of the State extending from Lakhanpur to Damchok in Ladakh. We are for empowering the regions and sub-regions in a manner that they are themselves handling income and expenditure and planning and investment. We even want that power should descend down on local bodies. This is our interpretation of devolution of power in J&K State. I may tell you that in European countries even as important a document as passport is issued by the local body in the area where application is made. This is evidently the basis of secular democracy. In that sense Jammu region and its sub regions will enjoy full measure of autonomy. No region or sub-region will have any complaint of discrimination because the very cause of discrimination will be eliminated. Development of all the regions will be ensured on the basis of secular democracy. This is the conviction of JK Democratic Liberation Party that I am heading.
Q How do you see the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and do you believe they have a say in the preservation of Kashmiriyat in the Valley as well?
A: Without Kashmiri Pandits, we the Kashmiri’s are incomplete. They have made glorious contribution in bringing education to the masses of people in Kashmir. My teachers were Kashmiri Pandits. In 1994, I published an article titled ‘The Tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits’. That was the peak of militancy. I rejected the assertion that Kashmiri Pandits left their homes on the behest of the then Governor Mr. Jag Mohan. Two years ago, I published another article in Greater Kashmir (12 March 2012) under the title ‘Towards Communal Harmony. Both are on my blog (www.hashimqureshijkdlp.blogsport.in). It gives a formula for their return and rehabilitation on just, viable and humanitarian basis keeping communal harmony in the front. However, let me say that Pandits, when back in the valley, cannot be comfortable in isolated townships. There will be many problems like security, socialization, inter-community interaction, and above all restoration of mutual confidence. Separate townships will be a temptation for the militants. Life lived under fear psychosis is no life. Separate township means keeping them in prisons. That is foolishness. Brisk interaction is needed to remove clouds of hatred.
Q What do you think is a permanent solution to resolving Kashmir?
A: There would not be Kashmir question if India or Pakistan had captured entire territory of original J&K State in 1947. Responsibility lies with India, Pakistan and the world leadership. This is no uni-polar world today. One cannot close eyes to Pakistan playing a role in Kashmir. India will not give and Pakistan cannot take. Thus Kashmir remains a flashpoint in the sub-continent. Let all stakeholders sit round a table and focus on making Kashmir a neutral zone like Switzerland. India, Pakistan and China, the three claimants to the territory must under the aegis of the UN guarantee neutrality of Jammu and Kashmir. This conflict has taken the entire region a hostage to many negative developments including wars, conspiracies and economic disabilities. Any time India, Pakistan can go to war, because of Mumbai, Gurdaspur like attacks and in the war no country is win the war. People of both countries can meet with distraction and we could go back in 10th Century.
After its formation the new government announced it would pull people out problems and change the basic structure of state administration. Governments in the past also made tall promised of providing water, electric power, good roads and good education. They did not fulfill the promises. Still our womenfolk carry pitchers of clean water on their head over a distance of two or three kilometers because clean drinking water is not available to them at hand. During the regime of Omar Abdullah, Zero Bridge of Srinagar could not be repaired. It remains in that state. We are not aware what the priorities of the new government are. However, we would like to enlist main problems so that authorities know what the people think
In what could be seen as a bold and unconventional stand from the traditional separatist stand, the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party, JKDLP Chairman Hashim Qureshi said that it is incorrect and perhaps even hypocritical to call Sheikh Abdullah a traitor. Lakhs of Kashmiris welcomed Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah after he returned from Delhi after the Sheikh-Indira Accord, indicating that they were with late Abdullah. The statement is probably one of the first of its kind from a separatist politician during the ongoing movement. The Ganga hijacker turned separatist politician refused to brand late National Conference founder as ‘traitor’ and said, “If Sheikh was a traitor, then what were the lakhs of Kashmiris who followed him.” He further added that after signing the ‘infamous’ Indira-Sheikh accord, Kashmir was shut on former Pakistan Prime Minster Zulfikar Ali Bhuto’s call, but when Sheikh landed in Srinagar, 10 lakh people were there to welcome him.“ How can you call him a traitor when he was not only welcomed by so many people, but also won the next Assembly Elections with an unprecedented majority of 77 seats?” Said Qureshi. In an exclusive Interview with The Kashmir Magazine, Hashim Qureshi also took a dig on separatist leadership and said that they were befooling the people with dreams of ‘Azadi’ since past sixty years and were instead fighting for Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. He also said that United Nations resolutions were ‘irrelevant’ for Nationalist Kashmiris who believe in an Independent State of Jammu & Kashmir. The UN resolutions where turned into a fight over land between two countries and only provide Kashmiris with a choice to vote for accession with one among the two neighboring countries. It was Pakistan who initiated an amendment in the UN, to which India did not object, which eventually turned ‘The future of the State of Jammu & Kashmir’ into the ‘Indo-Pak Question’. He blamed pro-freedom leadership for what he said, befooling Kashmiris by promising Independent Kashmir while they propagate for the implementation of the UN resolutions. The UN resolutions simply do not constitute of any option except accession to India or Pakistan.
Hashim termed perusal of UN resolution as a futile exercise and said the freedom movement has lost the track and people are betrayed by the leadership. When Leadership is demanding the right to vote in order to choose whose slaves they would like to be, how can they then claim to fight for ‘Azaadi’? I reject the UN resolutions, which only offer us Kashmiris to choose between the slavery of India and Pakistan and that is why I am called a Pakistani agent and an Indian agent at times by those who work in the national interests of India and Pakistan. Every true Nationalist who believes in a truly Independent, Secular and United Jammu & Kashmir has faced these accusations, including Maqbool Bhat.
“The movement had never a direction that would lead us to attain national independence, because the ones claiming to fight for Kashmir’s Independence are actually fighting Pakistan’s war on our soil.” Qureshi told The Kashmir Magazine. “You are running ‘Tehreek-e-Ilhaqi Pakistan’ (Movement of accession to Pakistan) not ‘Tehreek-e-Azadi’, (Movement for National Freedom) claimed Hashim. “All these separatist politicians have taken Kashmiris hostage for their own interests. They have been telling lies and are working here for the cause of Accession to Pakistan.” Alleged Qureshi, who hit the international headlines in early seventies when he along with his cousin hijacked a Jammu bound Indian airbus ‘Ganga’ and flew it to Lahore, where it was later burnt by the ISI after the passengers and crew were released. Eminent personalities like KH Khursheed (President AJK and Personal Secretary of Mohd. Ali Jinnah testified numerous times under oath in Pakistani Courts that Ganga was burned by the ISI. The hijacking was masterminded and owned by Maqbool Bhat and was carried out under the banner of his JKNLF. Maqbool Bhat was later hanged to death in India several years after the incident.
Hashim Qureshi also accused separatist camp of producing figures of casualties based on no research or documentation at all. “They talk of freedom movement, but don’t even have the record of the people who sacrificed their precious lives for the cause. They should have the list of every event which they don’t” claimed Qureshi and added that saying, more than 90,000 died during two decades has become a frequently used cliché now. He also said, “It is irony that those who were killed in militant group clashes are also in the list of those who sacrificed lives for movement.” Said Qureshi. He alleged that the separatist leadership never reached out to the families of those who laid their lives for the cause. The actual figure of casualties is perhaps even higher, as with everyone person who died, a whole family died. It produced numerous widows and orphans, who were left to the mercy of God only. The groups or ‘leaders’ who spearheaded militancy did not have any kind of scheme or plan to take care of the casualties which emerged from the casualties of ‘the movement’ itself. The widows and orphans were forced to become wanderers in search of justice while they begged for basic necessities to live a life with dignity. In movements, the families of freedom fighters are honoured, respected and taken care of whereas in Kashmir their families were exploited and turned into beggars for livelihood and justice.
On Sajad Gani Lone
Hashim Qureshi said that Sajad had repeatedly said that he was never accepted by separatist camp, but added that he does not know, whether that forced him to join mainstream or there were some other reasons. He however, that every individual has right to aspire and take decisions that suits him. According to Qureshi not only Sajad, many others from separatist camp have joined mainstream, but since he was a high profile among them so got much attention.
His own Political Ambitions
Rejecting the possibility of joining the mainstream politics, Hashim Qureshi said he has definitely no plans to do so. “I have taken a pledge in front of Shaheed Maqbool Bhat and will never forget that.” Said Qureshi. He added, “Some called me agent, some said, I have come here to contest elections, but let me tell them that I have no intention to fight Elections. Although, I am a Kashmiri State Subject, during my struggle and exile, I acquired European citizenship. For the sake of argument, even if I would want to fight elections, I cannot as legally only Indian citizens can elections from Kashmir. I still am an European citizen. ” Said Qureshi.
On Afzal Guru
Terming Afzal Guru’s hanging as a ‘political’ casualty, Qureshi said that he was sentenced by Indian court and executed, but ironically the foundation was provided by the Kashmiri leaders. He said that now when Guru is no more our politicians ‘shamelessly’ still want to cash in on his blood. “Engineer is playing theatrics; let me ask him what relief he provided to Guru’s family by voting in favor of Ghulam Nabi Azad in RS polls. Azad belongs to that Congress which hanged Guru and sending him to RS by the same man who claims to be the crusader for the rights of Guru and his family is ironic and theatrics.” Said Qureshi.
Mufti Syeed’s statement on ‘separatist’ role in Elections.
Accusing Jamat e Islami of campaigning for PDP and Engineer Rashid, Hashim Qureshi said, “ If Jamat can help Er. Rashid against Sajad Lone, why can’t others do the same. He accused New Delhi of failing to appraise the mood of the people.
“When Mufti Syeed says it, he must have ample reasons to say it. GOI gets inputs from local policemen who don’t know anything. May be Mufti was generous in acknowledging the role of separatist and militants in elections.” Said Qureshi, adding that Pakistan wanted, that PDP should not enter into an alliance with BJP, as that would have deepened the alienation which suited Pakistan.
Professor Gani’s meeting with Mufti Syed
Stating that Prof. Gani was an ‘accidental’ politician, Hashim Qureshi claimed that he (Prof.) was never a separatist by conviction.
“This is a tragedy both for him and for the movement. He landed in the camp accidently. He was on way to join congress but landed in Hurriyat due to congress’ decision of providing ticket to G.R.Kar.” alleged Hashim.
Hashim Qureshi also took serious objection of the alleged highhandedness in the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and said, the Bank has been providing hundreds of lakhs to non-state subject Industrialists on less interest rate under a well-planned conspiracy and said most of the beneficiaries later turn defaulters, whereas the local poor man is given loans on higher interest rates with his entire property keeping as mortgage. “The bank has become a money mine for non-state subject industrialists.” alleged Qureshi, adding that the role of the chairman needs to be probed. He said, “ A Kolkata based company took 7 and a half billion credit from the Bank on 11% and are reluctant to pay back, whereas locals are getting loans @ 14% interest.” Qureshi demanded that the Bank which has more than 50% state ownership should not get hijacked for personal benefits and favours.
The people in Kashmir are facing economic hardships and the recent floods have only exacerbated their struggle for a life with dignity and honour. The JK Bank should be playing a constructive role in reaching out to the people in these times of economic malaise. The Separatist camp also needs to revisit their strategy and acknowledge that mere selling unfounded dreams of Azaadi, is not the solution to the daily lives of the people. These fraudulent dreams do not cater for education, medical treatment and basic livelihood. How long will the Kashmiri people suffer and be kept hostage by unfounded dreams which have turned their lives into a nightmares?
Both countries have engaged in numerous armed clashes including three large scale wars and neither country has been able to snatch even one inch of Jammu & Kashmir from each other. It is in the interest of India, Pakistan, the Kashmiri people and the Sub-continent in general if both countries realize that the only stimulus to peace in the region and economic advancement is if the people of Jammu & Kashmir are given their basic right to Independence. The only solution to this long standing issue is an Independent, Secular and United Jammu & Kashmir.