Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was heckled by activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing for his alleged anti-India statements at a seminar in Kolkata today. More than 20 activists were arrested, police said.
The Mirwaiz, addressing a seminar at the Academy of Fine Arts here, said that Kashmir is a disputed land and the Indian government should realize the strong sentiments of 'azadi' of the people of the Valley.
"You cannot move forward until and unless you address the core issue. The core issue is not development, the core issue is not economic packages. The core issue is the strong sentiments of freedom of Kashmir, the strong sentiments of the people of Kashmir who want azadi. We want a solution'," the Mirwaiz said.
When former army chief General (retired) Shankar Roy Choudhury, one of the speakers at the seminar, asked him if he considers Kashmir to be a part of India, the Mirwaiz promptly said: "No, Kashmir is a disputed land and we want a solution."
The Kashmir Valley has seen around 110 deaths, mostly in firing by security forces on street protesters, in four months since June 11.
"On one side they are saying that they want a dialogue and on the other hand they are arresting young boys of Kashmir, detaining young students. The government itself has said that infiltration has come down then why are there so many troops still present in the valley. Why are the black laws not yet withdrawn. Why is the government using force in the Valley," asked the Mirwaiz.
"Dialogue has to be meaningful, they should realize the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. We had proposed a few things in 2004. We had said repeal the black laws, remove the bunkers and watch towers, release the political prisoners and that there should be accountability of human rights. But none of these things have been addressed so far," he said.
Choudhury was critical of the Mirwaiz and his azadi sentiments. He said that Pakistan is backing the separatist movement in Kashmir.
"Pakistan wants to avenge Bangladesh and that is why they are backing this separatist movement in Kashmir. The Mirwaiz doesn't represent the whole of Kashmir. Pakistan is trying to create a civil disobedience in Kashmir," said Choudhury.
"The Hurriyat instigated the people to pelt stones. How come any member of the Hurriyat Conference didn't receive a bullet injury when so many children were killed in the Valley," the general asked.
Activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) protested outside the Academy of Fine Arts and raised slogans against the Mirwaiz. The protest comes two days after Kashmiri Pandits and right-wing Hindu groups disrupted a seminar addressed by the Mirwaiz in Chandigarh.
"We staged a protest against Mirwaiz Umar Farooq because he is anti-India. We will not tolerate such things. Many of our workers have been arrested," BJYM leader Amitava Ray told IANS.
According to the city police control room, 22 BJYM activists were arrested for creating disturbances.