Kashmir alive because of Pakistan ‘Modi needs to represent predecessors to settle Kashmir’

Minus Pakistan no permanent, acceptable settlement to Kashmir
The institution of dialogue may fail for a period but dialogue will never fail
Even Dineshwar Sharma recognises Pakistan as party to Kashmir
If Sharma comes to my home, why shouldn’t I talk to him?
I recognise the right of Jammu people to vote whoever they chose
The beat of the heart was almost similar between me and Mufti Sayeed
Mehbooba Mufti is as good as my daughter
Nizamuddin Bhat my student, Altaf Bukhari as good as my son

‘Modi needs to represent predecessors to settle Kashmir’
Former Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and senior Hurriyat leader, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat is open for dialogue with anyone who seeks a permanent solution to Kashmir issue. In an exclusive interview with Rising Kashmir’s Oped Editor, Daanish Bin Nabi, he speaks about the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids in Kashmir, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jammu, and the role of Pakistan in the State. Excerpts

How do you view the appointment of New Delhi’s envoy to Kashmir?

I don’t want to dig out bones buried yesterday. Occasionally, I feel intrigued when digging graves of yesterday. This question is directly linked to the political thought of New Delhi. The political thought of New Delhi has found an expression in Kashmir. How do Kashmiris take this appointment is a different question. How do Kashmiri politician take it is different.

What matters is that unless India and Pakistan start a dialogue, we can reach nowhere. You may do the talking between yourselves, but it does not matter. What need to be understood are the undercurrents of history. And the undercurrents of history suggest that Indians and Pakistanis start talking to each other in a triangular format involving Kashmiris. Individuals or groups will never ever matter. What matters is the bone of contentions between India and Pakistan is Kashmir.

Will Dineshwar Sharma succeed in his mission Kashmir?

I don’t want to pick up another quarrel with a gentleman you referring to. I give him the respect he deserves and I give him the freedom to do what he does. But let me tell you, when it comes to solution of Kashmir, even Mr. Sharma has said, probably in no ambiguous terms, that Pakistan has to be involved while seeking the settlement of disputed nature of Jammu Kashmir.

Will you meet Sharma?

If anybody comes to my home like you did, I never refuse to talk. If he comes to my home, why shouldn’t I talk to him? I believe in dialogue. I believe all civilised people in the world believe in dialogue. You believe in dialogue. Who doesn’t believe in dialogue? Dialogue may take an individual form or it make take a form where states are involved.

There were other groups as well who visited Kashmir during the past two years, Yashwant Sinha-led group being the most prominent one.

India is in Kashmir and Kashmir is in turmoil. Any Indian wants to contribute to the relationship which serves the integrity of Indians. It needs to be understood. Every Indian will want integration of Kashmir with India. But there are people who understand the dynamics of history. They are the children of history. They are children of the hostility between India and Pakistan. They are the children of wars that India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir.

You can’t ignore history and therefore even those who seek a permanent integration of Kashmir with India will agree with you, me and each and every one of us that unless Pakistan is involved and Kashmir is resolved, integration will have no relevance to the political thought in Kashmir.

Hurriyat (M) is always willing for talks.

That’s where strategies figure. If you can develop a strategy or if you can work out a strategy, which is in tune with the call of times, I am sure as death that, yes, we will be able to break the ice.

Has the institution of dialogue failed?

The institution of dialogue will never fail. It may fail for a period of time, it may fail with reference to a situation but dialogue in principle will never fail. The fact of the matter is where we go if we don’t talk. Go to the battlefield? Never. Go to polls in Kashmir? No. Fight India to the last day? No. Where do we go, if we don’t respond to the call of the world as a whole? You will have to understand the dimensions of the political economy ruling supreme across the world.

There are people who are against dialogue.

Well, I respect everybody in Kashmir. My sympathiser or opponent, I respect each one of them. The difference of opinion should speak volumes of my political health. That is where we probably fail to appreciate the politics of Kashmir? You go against me, I go against you, and it keeps the dispute alive.

How do your rate Syed Ali Geelani as a leader?

Geelani sahab was my teacher for some time. I myself was a professor for quite some time, and teachers don’t fight wars. Teachers may tread different paths but they don’t fight wars. They may follow different ideologies in terms of politics, but they don’t fight wars. I differ with Geelani sahab on certain matters but I give him the respect he deserves.

What about NIA raids across Kashmir?

I wish I could be in power in India or Pakistan, and I wish I had taught criminology with respect to NIA raids across Kashmir. But I was teaching Persian and in my opinion selective justice is not justice.

Pick me up and say that I have done it while you have not done it. I don’t want to interfere what NIA did but I do want justice to be done. And when it comes to justice, remember there are many people who shall have to stand and talk.

There has also been a lot of talk about the Hurriyat funding?

I wish I were a grosser in politics. But I am not. Till today, I never behaved as a grosser. Money or no money, it is the attitude that matters. Money or no money, it is the understanding of the situation that counts. Money or no money, it should be the people who matter.

Does Pakistan have a role in Kashmir?

Minus Pakistan you cannot seek Kashmir settlement. Role or no role is different. Minus Pakistan you can never ever think of a permanent, honourable and acceptable settlement to the Kashmir dispute.

What kind of support do you get from Pakistan?

It is all support from Pakistan. Because if Pakistan was not a state behind Kashmir, Kashmir would have gone. Kashmir is alive because of Pakistan. They do the diplomatic activity and they do it across the world in support of our demand for a permanent settlement of Kashmir dispute. However, I am not a surrogate to plead India’s or Pakistan’s role in Kashmir. I have my own views.

Is there democracy within Hurriyat?

Yes, certainly. Our Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was democratically chosen as chairman for life. He became chairman through democracy. We did it through a vote. Democracy is exercising your choice and we exercised our choice by picking him as chairman for life.

How have things changed since Modi became Prime Minister?

Realities have never changed. Realities will never change. One of these realities is that Kashmir is a dispute. Mr. Modi or some other gentleman being there doesn’t make a difference. You have to accept the realities, the somber, bitter and stark realities. If you don’t, you go nowhere.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was from the same party, and he was the only Prime Minister of India who was very close to settling Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. So, Mr. Modi needs to represent his predecessors and seek a settlement of Kashmir issue. It is a situational reality that Kashmir is linked to the future of South Asia as a whole.

How do you see former chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed decision of aligning with BJP?

I won’t say whether he was right or not. It is for Mufti sahab and BJP to explain. But I recognise the right of people of Jammu to vote whoever they chose, and I recognise the right of people to choose the coalition. Mufti’s politics was different. He was my friend and I respect him as my friend.

You went to Muftis when he died.

I did and I delivered a speech there as well. I said we were two different people as far as politics is concerned. But the beat of our hearts was similar because he wanted dialogue and I want dialogue. He sought a settlement, I seek a settlement.

Who did you address, the PDP workers?

I addressed everyone. I don’t know who those people were. Some of them definitely were PDP people like Nizamuddin Bhat, who has been my student and Altaf Bukhari, who is as good as my son. If you ask me to refuse to recognise my sons and students, then I am sad about it.

How do you rate Mehbooba Mufti?

I have nothing to do with her politics but she is as good as my daughter. My friend’s daughter is my daughter.

Do you think National Conference and Congress have any chance of coming back to power?

Only if I were a soothsayer! But I am in politics. It is for the people of Kashmir to decide.

How do you view Farooq Abdullah?

Farooq Abdullah occasionally makes relevant noise. He should persist with it in the interest of his party and in the interest of South Asia. Kashmir needs a solution.