Show human face, stop killings, have dialogue: Mirwaiz Farooq (IANS Interview)

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Srinagar, July 15 (IANS) Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq invokes former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to restore peace to the troubled Kashmir Valley.

The head Muslim preacher of Jammu and Kashmir said there were “many factors”, including the alleged RSS and BJP plans of enforcing demographic changes, that contributed to the current turmoil in the Kashmir Valley.

The governments in both New Delhi and Srinagar, Mirwaiz told IANS in an interview, have “completely closed their eyes to the reality” in Kashmir.

“There was a time when Vajpayee came to us. I remember when he came here, he came with a political package. He recognized (Kashmir) is a political problem. He said we have to address the issue with humanity. He said we have to shed the stated positions and look for new openings. We started engaging with him and the dialogue process started.”

The “saddest part today”, the Mirwaiz said, “is that New Delhi is in a denial mode”.

“This government talks about the vision of Vajpayee. And the basic element of ‘insaniyat’ is quite visible on the ground with nearly 40 deaths, hundreds injured, pellets, small children in hospitals.”

He said Kashmir was “never a law and order issue, a problem of good or bad governance, of economic incentives, jobs” and separatist groups have been “trying to bring this point home that it is a political problem that needs a political solution”.

As step one, New Delhi should shun its “military approach” and address Kashmir with “a human face”, he said.

“But that is nowhere visible. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) doesn’t even condemn civilian killings. He doesn’t even have a word of sympathy for Kashmiris.”

The 43-year-old separatist leader – who heads his faction of the divided Hurriyat Conference – an amalgam of Kashmiri separatist groups – has been detained in his house since the current unrest, triggered by the July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani, 22. At least 38 people have been killed and hundreds injured in subsequent street clashes.

The Mirwaiz said Wani and the protests were a manifestation of years of anger among Kashmiri youth that remained unaddressed.

“Many factors have contributed. The BJP-PDP coalition has been one of the sources of anger in Jammu and Kashmir.

“At the end of the day this is a Muslim majority state and many people are disturbed by the fact there seems to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the majority status of Jammu and Kashmir. And the BJP and the RSS are not hiding their intentions on that.”

He denied Pakistan or even the Hurriyat Conference was stoking the trouble and called the street protests as “spontaneous, not sponsored”.

“Delhi is trying to blame everybody else except themselves. Sometimes Pakistan and sometimes Hurriyat. Hurriyat is nowhere in the scene. It is the people. It is the youth of Kashmir.”

He said the Indian government wasted six years after the 2010 Kashmir unrest by doing “nothing to resolve the issue” and instead created further problems by pushing “Kashmiris to the wall”.

“Whether it is so-called Sainik (soldier) Colonies or separate townships for Panidts. There has been provocation from Delhi on every issue. It was a pressure cooker situation and it exploded.”

He said Kashmir needed “political space” and asked the state and central governments to understand “why the youth relate to this young man who got killed”.

“Every (Kashmiri) family has a story to tell, of tragedy, of pain, of suffering, and relate to Burhan. He never went to Pakistan. He left his career, his good family, and his comfortable home to challenge the might of India knowing well he won’t succeed in countering the military might.”

Asked if the Hurriyat would talk to India if invited, the Mirwaiz said: “I personally believe there is always a strong constituency of dialogue in Kashmir to address the issues. But New Delhi has discredited that constituency.

“First of all they have to show the human face. Stop this madness, stop these killings.”

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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