Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Thursday that the first step towards peace in the strife-torn state will be to acknowledge the political nature of the Kashmir problem, a day after the Centre’s committed to hold talks with all stakeholders.
The Centre agreed to an all-party meeting on Thursday to discuss how to end weeks of violent unrest in Kashmir, as pressure mounted on the government to open a broad dialogue to resolve the crisis triggered by the killing of a militant leader.
Over 50 people have been killed – most of them in police firing – following street unrest in Kashmir to protest the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani by security forces last month. The region has been under curfew for over a month now.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, chairperson of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) and valley’s head cleric, Farooq said the message from Kashmir is loud and clear.
“Firstly, they (Centre) being ready to hold talk is a mere speculation, we are just jumping the gun. New Delhi is not ready to even acknowledge the political nature of the problem, they are still saying it’s about bijli, sadak and pani,’’ he said.
“The government is not even acknowledging the sentiment, saying it’s a sponsored sentiment. It’s time India told the truth about Kashmir to its own people,’’ he added.
“Kashmiriyat, insaniyat and jamooriyat lose meaning as Delhi is talking to Kashmir from the barrel of the gun, that is the ground reality,’’ he added.
Mirwaiz was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invocation of his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s moderate vision to outline his government’s stand on dealing with the protests in Kashmir. It was Modi’s first public remarks on the situation in Kashmir.
In 2003, Vajpayee paved the way for the Centre’s first-ever talks with Kashmiri separatists and laid down three principles to deal with the region’s political crisis -- insaniyat (humanism), jamooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir’s legacy of amity).
Mirwaiz said dialogue is the key and Kashmiris are the main stakeholders. “They have to take us along,’’ he added.
He said a referendum or tripartite dialogue would be the next step.
“When Vajpayee used these words, he followed it with commitment. He said humanity is bigger that the Constitution and that the government has to shed the beaten track. If you are quoting Vajpayee, then follow him in his commitment as well,’’ Mirwaiz said.
“Hurriyat engaged with Vajpayee based on this commitment. These things are the cornerstone of Vajpayee’s slogan,’’ he added.
Mirwaiz said Kashmiris are giving a clear message that it has to be “now or never’’.
“Today the mainstream parties and even Dr Karan Singh, whose father was party to the accession, and your former Union minister Chidambaram is talking about broken promises and injustices,’’ Mirwaiz said.
Both Mirwaiz and hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani were arrested after they tried to lead a march towards the martyr’s graveyard in Srinagar. The two leaders were later released.
The separatist camp has issued a fresh shutdown and protest calendar from August 13 to August 18. The separatists have called for a march to Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on August 13 and 14, a black day on August 15 and other forms of protests like sit-ins, congregational prayers and raising black flags on other days.