With BJP's Narendra Modi leading the prime ministerial probables in a majority of opinion polls, moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has softened his stand on the foremost Hindutva mascot of the saffron party, saying "if Modi emulates former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and shuns parochial path, the Hurriyat is not averse to engage with him".
"If Modi is elected and pursues the outlook of Vajpayee regarding the Kashmir issue, wherein he talked of addressing it in 'Insaniyat kay daayre mein' (within the ambit of humanism), and in this context initiates a dialogue with Pakistan and the leadership of Kashmir, then things can move forward," said the Mirwaiz in an interview to the Hindustan Times.
The Mirwaiz, whose Hurriyat faction had sprung a surprise in 2002 by holding a high-profile meeting with the then home minister L K Advani in Delhi on the Kashmir issue, describes Vajpayee-headed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government "more forthcoming than the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
"The NDA under Vajpayee took several measures. At least, he made attempts to engage with both Pakistan and separatists. The UPA, on the other hand, missed on opportunities and showed no seriousness," said the Mirwaiz, who also described P Chidambaram's quiet diplomacy initiative "nothing but a move to give just an impression that the UPA was serious".
Asked if he fears that Modi can reverse the ongoing confidence building measures in Kashmir once he comes to power, Miwaiz said, "No. What is there to reverse? Since 2008, Kashmir has witnessed worse atrocities, killings, choking of human rights, political and religious spaces. Kashmir in the past six years is being only looked through security prism," he said.
He said the undertones of Modi's recent speech around Kashmir "was not alarming". However, he was quick to add: "Modi has the baggage of Gujarat communal riots and it would be important to watch his conduct in case he assumes the office of the prime minister of India."
The Mirwaiz claimed there are leaders within the BJP "who understand sentiments of the people of Kashmir and cannot wish away the problem and ignore the reality".
However, he offers one suggestion for the upcoming new dispensation, without naming any favourites. "There is need to look beyond the narrow, communal and parochial boundaries and strive to address the vital issues facing the region so that in an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding, the full potential of economic development of the region could be utilised. Modi cannot afford to be an exception to this reality," he added.
Describing the possible change of guard at the Centre of "little significance" for separatists, the Mirwaiz said, "What matters is change of policy vis-a-vis the issue of Kashmir. There is need to move beyond the traditional approach".
He reiterated the Hurriyat stand on dialogue on the Kashmir issue, saying "we will engage with any dispensation in Delhi showing seriousness and willingness to resolve the dispute".