Yasin Malik, a Kashmir faction leader who has never supported the pro-Pakistan sentiments in the valley, says Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani has been "exploiting" the Amarnath land row to secure his vote bank and be the next prime minister of India.
"Advani, powered by other Hindu extremists in the Sangh Parivar, wants to be the next prime minister of India and he is exploiting the situation to come to power by giving a communal tone to the Amarnath land row," Malik told IANS.
Malik, who advocates the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence for the "freedom" struggle in Kashmir, is chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which he says is a secular separatist movement for an independent state.
The wave of unrest that has engulfed Jammu and Kashmir has killed at least 40 people, most of them in firings by police and paramilitary troopers, in almost three months since the government first allotted land to the Amarnath shrine board in May and then revoked the decision on July 1 - triggering protests first in Muslim-majority Kashmir and then in Hindu-dominated Jammu.
The row over the land for pilgrims headed to the shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in the valley has snowballed into a major controversy and re-ignited the separatist sentiment in the Kashmir valley that till some weeks ago was enjoying peace with hotels full of tourists and filmmakers too.
The Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave "has been going on for more than a century-and-a-half", Malik said, asking: "Why do we suddenly need land transfer in the name of the shrine board?"
"The pilgrimage," Malik said, "is a Muslim legacy and shouldn't have been tampered with."
The JKLF leader, who had been on a hunger strike for five days from Aug 5 onwards to protest the "economic blockade" by Jammu, said that the entire valley "was being used to enable Hindu pilgrims camp and Muslims would dutifully offer their services for the peaceful conclusion of the pilgrimage"
"Even during the current crisis the pilgrimage concluded peacefully," he said from his home in Maisuma near the city centre Lal Chowk.
Describing the Amarnath row as a "tip of iceberg", he said: "New Delhi is adamant to overlook the writing on the wall. Kashmiris are fighting for their rights and their identity."
Regretting the violence over the issue, he added that the issue needed to be looked at "from a conflict paradigm not just through the prism of statecraft".
"I had warned India and Pakistan that the anger in Kashmiris has not died. It was hidden there and now it has erupted like a volcano."
"The Indian government," he said, "mistook the silence in Kashmir as a return of peace."
Stressing that dialogue was the only way out, he asserted that the authorities avoided serious talks with the Kashmiris and now the result was before them.
"India and Pakistan sooner or later will have to talk to the Kashmiris and solve the dispute. Our aspirations have to be taken into consideration."
Malik had a round of talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 during which he advocated inclusion of Kashmiris in the India-Pakistan dialogue over the state, which is ruled in parts but claimed in full by the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours.