Full transcript of the BBC Hindi Special Programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. The topic of the programme was: Has the process of political reconciliation failed in J&K?
Nagendar Sharma : Has the process of a political solution to Kashmir problem lost its way?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : No, I think the dialogue process initiated by the previous Vajpayee government will go ahead, but this is such a thing which goes up and down. There is no other solution that to take this process forward. The efforts are on, you have a new government at the centre which has to understand the whole situation and then take a decision - and all this takes time. You cannot say there has been a delay - change of governments lead to more time that is all.
Nagendar Sharma : But there is a growing feeling especially among the separatist organisations that the new Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh does not have a stature like that of Atal Behari Vajpayee to take a bold initiative on Kashmir...
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : My view is that there is a national consensus on the foreign policy of the country with regards to improving relations with Pakistan, and dialogue with the people of Kashmir. Now, there would be continuity, and I do not think that the new government is weak. It is our national policy which emphasises on good relations with Pakistan, reconciliation, removing enmity and walls of hatred, and resolution of the problems being faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
BBC listener from (Banda) UP : Mr Sayeed, during the election campaign, before coming to power in the state, you had talked about ‘healing touch’ policy, which raised hopes of bringing down militancy in the state. You have been in power for almost two years now, but the situation has not changed. Do you admit the ‘healing touch’ policy has failed?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : I suggest you should come to our state to feel the difference in the situation since our government came to power. People are safer and more secure now - they have a feeling of security also. You should come to our state as a tourist to find about the real situation. Incidents of violence do take place, but then violence continues in many parts of the world and India also. The difference in Kashmir now is that violent incidents taking place do not have any impact on the normal life of the people of the state. Tourists are coming to the state, colleges and universities are functioning normally without any interruptions and tourists who come here are feeling the difference and say they can feel a lot of difference now.
Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Sayeed, after two years of your healing touch policy, how do you analyse it - is it a partial success or a complete failure?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : Earlier, when a young son used to leave home in the morning, mothers would anxiously wait for them to return in the evening; marriages would take place during daytime. Look now, the situation in Kashmir is normal, just as a state should be. It can only be felt by those who are here. I say well begun is half done, the path of Healing Touch philosophy which we have adopted means bringing normalcy in the lives of the people of the state, moving ahead on the socio-economic development of the state, finishing draconian laws such as POTA and putting harsh policies aside.
Today there is transparency in governance, and a faith in the democratic set-up. Stern action is taken if any case of repression from security forces is reported. During the recent Parliamentary elections, Hurriyat leaders such as Geelani, Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah went from village to village, giving calls for the election boycott - there was, and is, no bar on anyone. We are trying to build a democratic atmosphere. If people do not like something, they take to the streets.
Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Sayeed, before coming to power you had also promised for healing touch to the kin of militants. You had said that kin of killed militants would also be provided a healing touch. But after the previous NDA government wanted changes and Hindu organisations objected, you watered it down. What is the position now?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : If militants are killed in action, their children left behind became orphans. There can be no differentiation between orphans. Whether a killing has been at the hands of militants or security forces, those innocents left behind cannot be discriminated against. We would take care of all orphans. There are thousands of orphans in the state. It is the new generation, the children, who have suffered the most due to violence in the state. They did not get a conducive atmosphere to grow. Our policy is to help them to grow and educate themselves. There is and would not be any discrimination, I assure you. We are helping the orphans by all means. We do not believe in publicity of all works being done by the state government, but the work is on.
BBC listener from Dubai : Sir why have aligned with the Congress Party, which is responsible for the present plight of Kashmir ?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : No party got a majority in the assembly elections here. We decided to enter into a coalition with the Congress and others, and drew up a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) in the beginning itself. We have been working on the basis of this CMP for almost two years now, meeting the challenge before us. Now, fortunately, it is the Congress government at the centre, and they understand the situation fully. I do not see any problem with the Congress.
And all of us should not forget history. In October 2002, after the assembly election results were out, we had 16 MLAs and the Congress had 20. There was no chance of a coalition government as things were not working out. But it was the national leadership of the Congress party, especially Sonia Gandhi, who understood the situation. Now they have a government at the centre also, they fully understand the circumstances in which we are working here. Remember & Jammu Kashmir is an international focus.
BBC listener from Florida (US) : Sir, already one-third of Kashmir is under the control of Pakistan and China, we cannot get that back now, and what little is left is with India. Why should the LoC not be converted into the International Border?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : You cannot talk of a formula even before the efforts for any solution are made. Once the dialogue starts, then in due course of time through this evolutionary process a solution would be found. There cannot be a fixed formula to begin with, since the position of both sides, India and Pakistan, on Kashmir is clear. Both have publicly stated positions, and only once the process of dialogue starts would the solution evolve.
Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Sayeed, Kashmir is the biggest point of dispute between India and Pakistan, and for a year and a half both countries have been trying, but the efforts to start a dialogue process have been really slow...
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : It was only during the SAARC conference in Islamabad in January this year that the peace process between the two countries picked up. It was then that a roadmap was agreed on, which is now being implemented. We must all bear in mind that previous talks in Lahore and Agra have failed and a problem that has been there for 56 years cannot be resolved in a day, month, few months or one year. Therefore the need is to build confidence among both the sides and then move forward.
BBC listener from Srinagar : Sir, before coming to power you had promised the people of Kashmir that all innocent people languishing in jails, and detained under TADA would be released. What happened to your promise?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : Now only about 550 detenues are there in the state’s jails, and out of these 150 are those who have come from Pakistan, the foreigners.. Now with regards to 400 others, even if they have been involved in militant activities, after screening, those innocent are being regularly released. But please have a look at the total number of detenues left in the jails now.
BBC listener from UP : Sir the J&K state has been witnessing militancy since last two decades and it is the Hindus who have suffered the most. Almost all Hindus have left the Kashmir valley. You talk a lot about "healing touch", but what have you done for them?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : The Kashmiri Pandits who had to leave the valley, and others who had to go from Jammu region was because of the prevailing atmosphere in the state - there was a sense of insecurity. Our work is to improve the atmosphere and provide a sense of security. Just see how many people are coming to the state - Kashmiri Pandits are also coming, not to stay but to visit the state. We have to take this to a level where they return as residents. For this the challenge is to make the situation normal. The state government is working on concrete measures to ensure their return to the state on a permanent basis. We are seriously thinking about measures which would enable the return of Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes.
Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Sayeed, on one hand the centre and the state government say the Hurriyat Conference does not represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand all out efforts are being made to bring them to the negotiation table again...
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : Hurriyat is the amalgam, it symbolises the separatists movement. It is an institution and there should be talks with them - what is wrong with that? The previous central government also did that and now the new government is also carrying it forward.
Nagendar Sharma : But why this contradiction? The governments say that they do not represent the people and still try and talk with them...
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : There is no contradiction, I have never talked about it being representative, it is about others. Now Hurriyat is challenging accession, it is a separatist organisation - you have to talk to them. It is not a question of their representative character, that would be addressed at a different time. You have to talk to the people in struggle, to those who have been to jails for their cause. You cannot test their representative character before talking to them - but you have to talk to them first.
Nagendar Sharma : Mr Sayeed, the J&K state government is trying, the new government at the Centre is trying, the centre’s interlocutor is trying, but right now the Hurriyat leadership does not seem inclined to talk to the Indian government. During NDA’s time they at least went to Delhi to talk, but not now...
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : See the Hurriyat factions of Maulana Abbas Ansari and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq took a very bold step by accepting the government’s invitation and went to talk to Delhi. But they are being targeted, Moulvi Mushtaq, Omar Farooq’s uncle, was killed in a mosque - four bullets were sprayed into his body, grenades were hurled at his house, his historical school built in 1899 was burnt. They have been targeted.
Therefore I say the new government at the centre should not rush things through, some time has to be given to the Hurriyat leadership. There has to be some patience, and there is no need for acting in haste. Eventually everyone would come on the dialogue table - who can say no? If it is the government of India’s invitation, how can you say no? After every struggle the solution has been found through talks only.
The state government is doing all it can to bring them to the table. It is the state government that has made the atmosphere conducive for talks. I am saying that let us talk. My view is that all sections and factions of Hurriyat would come on the table for talks with the centre. No undue haste has to be shown and things are working out in the right direction, Hurriyat leaders have to be given time.
Nagendar Sharma : Sir, are you making attempts for any fresh ceasefire in the state? And do these ceasefires apply to only militants or the government and the security forces also?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : All those holding guns in their hands would also have a realisation one day that there is a limit to this. Today when relations between India and Pakistan are improving, and people on both sides are talking, then they would also have to give peace a chance, today or tomorrow. Finally, those holding the gun would also be told by their masters to allow the peace process to be successful.
Remember when Abdul Majid Dar had declared a ceasefire, the Home Secretary of India had come here. It is said that initially Syed Sallahudin was also involved, but he later withdrew. Such things and developments would continue, but finally it is the peace that would prevail.
Nagendar Sharma : Mr Sayeed, there is an agreement between your party, the PDP, and the Congress for rotating the chief ministership after three years - what are your priorities now for the period left ?
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed : I would not wait for a year. I say that we are facing an immense challenge to bring normalcy to the state, and we are making all efforts in that direction. I say I would remain on the chair till the time people of the state want me and have faith in me. The moment they do not have faith on me, and I feel that I am unable to do anything, I would sit at home. For me it is not a question of years. I take it as a question of my duty.
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