'Manmohan Singh has to officially call for talks'
He was first arrested in 1962, and since the start of militancy in 1989, he has steadfastly held on to an unflinching demand to involve Pakistan in a solution to the Kashmir problem. Kashmir's leading hawk, All Parties' Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani speaks to Peerzada Ashiq.india Updated: Sep 03, 2010 12:58 IST
His lone kidney is faltering, he has bronchitis and survives on a pacemaker. None of that dimmed the fire in Kashmir's leading hawk, All Parties' Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani (81). But 65 dead, a spreading anger and a devastated economy and society appear to have had an effect on the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. He was first arrested in 1962, and since the start of militancy in 1989, he has steadfastly held on to an unflinching demand to involve Pakistan in a solution to the Kashmir problem. He has opposed elections and has favoured a merger with Pakistan. That's why a statement he released on Tuesday appeared to be a moderating of his stand. Under pressure from the Kashmir street, which wants no compromise, and from civil society, which wants children to return to school and businesses to reopen, Geelani's subtle shifts of position and his balancing acts were evident in an interview with Peerzada Ashiq:
You have set a five-point proposal as pre-conditions before engaging into any dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue? Is this a scaling down on your part, since you have always been averse to talks?
I want to make it clear that we do not oppose talks. But we do have a five-point precondition to start talks. These are: Declaring Kashmir an international dispute, releasing all political prisoners, complete demilitarisation as per the pledges made by India to the United Nations long ago, that Indian forces are not to stay here for ever, withdrawal of draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Areas Act etc and punishment to those security personnel who have killed 65 civilians since June 11 2010. Once talks start, they have to be trilateral, including New Delhi, Islamabad and real representatives of the sentiments of Kashmiris. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to officially call for the talks. The Indian PM has to pledge to rein its forces from killing and arresting protesters in Kashmir. The talks have to be result oriented.
Are you in touch with New Delhi?
No. Not at this juncture. The people I met in jail, I made it public and shared it with the masses.
Are there divisions within the Hurriyat?
We are not divided on the cause. Why don't you see how other leaders are following our protest calendars? Nobody is opposing our protest programme. All separatist leaders are for the right to self-determination. Ideologically, there is no division within the Hurriyat.
What is the solution to the Kashmir problem? Some demand independence and some a merger with Pakistan.
I think the only democratic solution to the Kashmir dispute is asking people their opinion though the right to self-determination, as per the signed recommendations of the United Nations to which India was also a party. If the majority of people will vote for India, I may not like it and it might be painful but I will accept it. Similarly, if the people of Kashmir reject India, it should also accept the people's verdict.