September 5, 2011

Interview with Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of Kashmir's Hurriyat Conference, tells Tehelka's Baba Umar why a peaceful protest is not possible in Kashmir
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced the release of 1,200 youths arrested for stone pelting. Do you welcome it?

Not at all. It is political gimmickry. ‘Granting amnesty’ is a wrong term used by Omar. These youths are not criminals. They were reacting to the situation created last year in which over 120 people, mostly students, were shot at. There is no concept of peaceful protests in Kashmir. The state government never allows it. Kashmir isn’t Delhi where Anna Hazare can lead peaceful protests.

You talked about Anna Hazare. Are you impressed with the way he led protesters?

It was good to see one man leading a war against corruption. But let’s say we start following Anna by launching peaceful protests to demand our basic right, how will the government react? They won’t allow it. They have different stands when it comes to Kashmir. Many things have been done here in the name of nationalism and security. You see, no newspaper carried the issue of mass graves. The media walks only a certain distance in Kashmir.

There has been no reaction from the separatists over Anna’s movement. In Manipur, Irom Sharmila has called upon Anna to visit and support her crusade against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA)...

We can always ask Anna to come to Kashmir and raise his voice against human rights violations in the state. We will discuss it in the next meeting of Hurriyat members. We may even send a letter to him asking him to join our crusade. If he is a Gandhian, he should see what has been happening in the Valley for the past 22 years.

The CM said youngsters were used and then forgotten.

I resent this statement. Remember 2008 and 2010 was a people’s movement. Leaders were led by people. The youth was angry. The government choked the movement by force.

You’re suddenly talking about corruption and release of employees’ arrears. Many say your separatism is now restricted to civic and social issues only?

We can never sideline the main issue, which is the Kashmir dispute. But at the same time, we can’t keep our eyes shut to other things. The Kashmir dispute may take time to settle but we have highlighted other issues like the illegal construction of the Kishanganga power project in Gurez.

But Pakistan is also constructing a dam on the same river on its side of the LoC?

We are not okay with that. On this issue, both sides have treated us badly. I remember the World Bank was ready to invest in power projects in the state. Why should we give these projects to NHPC? We are not against development but we are for better deals. It’s simple economics.

In his visit to J&K, US Senator John McCain met Governor NN Vohra and the CM, but no separatist leader. Do you see a change in US policy on Kashmir?

The US has its own interests in India developing economically. It was a reversal of what Barack Obama had said when he was elected president. The world is talking about Arab Spring and Libyan uprising, but we aren’t seeing similar terms for Kashmiris who have been fighting for 63 years. This is double standards.

You recently warned New Delhi over hanging Afzal Guru.

Hanging Afzal would be disastrous for Kashmir. There is a strong sentiment in Kashmir against it both in the way his case was handled and how it was politicised. Kashmir will erupt if he is hanged.
An interview with Guru can be found here.

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