Nagendar Sharma, BBC : On becoming the Hurriyat Chief, you had appealed to the militants to give up arms, but they rejected your appeal, now what role do you see for Hurriyat in the future ?
Abbas Ansari: I have appealed to both sides - (the militants and the Indian security forces), as well as to those brothers who have picked up the gun, I have also said that there should be a ceasefire from both sides, and such an atmosphere be created in which talks can be held.
See, when you are talking about my appeal being rejected, look at their statement carefully. They were saying that they wanted a ceasefire, but they are also saying what I have said, that at the same time, the Indian forces must also bring their gun down - announce a ceasefire and then can an atmosphere for talks be created.
BBC listener from Muscat : Hurriyat and other separatist organisations by now have realised that Kashmir cannot be snatched from India by force or gun, why don’t you follow the separatist organisations of Mizoram and sign an agreement with India and join the mainstream ?
Abbas Ansari: We believe that till the time guns do not fall silent in Kashmir, the process of talks cannot start. Due to violence in Kashmir, there is mourning in every house, and people have been craving for peace.
But talks can only be held in an atmosphere conducive for this. This can be done if the Mujahideen decide to drop the gun and at the same time, the Indian security forces reply appropriately to this move by saying that they would end the ongoing operations in Kashmir.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : But Mr Ansari, can the Indian forces halt their operations, knowing fully well that innocents are being killed in the state ?
Abbas Ansari: This is what I was coming to. Until the time India does not let go of its adamant attitude and gives up operations in Kashmir, the talks would not be fruitful and would not yield results.
BBC listener from Dhanbad : Every party has an ideology; what ideology do you follow? You want independence and your pro Pakistan stance is clearly visible. You criticise India and want your demands fulfilled, what do you want Kashmiris to do?
Abbas Ansari: See what I am saying is that Kashmiris on both sides of the border want peace and brotherhood. But what is happening in Indian Kashmir & Pakistani Kashmir is the firing of mortar shells; this would have to stop. Madness from both sides will have to halt. That is why I have said that I will meet everybody concerned with Kashmir and will talk to them. I will also meet those who say that the only solution would be by the gun, I will try to convince them that the only solution would be by talks.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : But Mr Ansari how would the violence stop ?
Abbas Ansari: See this can only happen if India and Pakistan, both take steps. What happened even after India and Pakistan signed the Lahore declaration in 1999? There was the fifth war - Kashmiris today are also facing bullets.
Till the time Kashmiris on both sides of the border are allowed to meet and the intra Kashmiri dialogue is not allowed, Kashmiris cannot stick to any one thing. What we want is that Kashmiris on both sides should be allowed to meet. This is what I have learnt and this is not today, it is from the days of Pt Nehru, who being the Prime Minister of India had freed Shiekh Abdullah from jail and had sent him to his area of influence saying he would honour whatever Kashmiris decide.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : You are talking about Kashmiris rights, but do you think that India and Pakistan would allow this? What is their leadership thinking ?
Abbas Ansari: The governments can think anything, take Indian Kashmir- one crore thirty lakh people live here, don’t they have a right to decide about their lives. See what I am saying is that whether it is India or Pakistan, they should both allow the Kashmiris on both sides to meet, let them sit and decide about their future.
India and Pakistan have in the past signed three agreements pertaining to Kashmir till now, but have you for a moment thought why all these agreements, whether it was Nehru - Liaqat Ali, or Shastri- Ayub Khan or Indira Gandhi- Bhutto failed - it was because the Kashmiris wish was not granted, their rights were denied.
BBC listener from California : Hurriyat has been talking about merging with Pakistan, a country known as an epi-centre of terrorism in the world, a country with all sorts of crisis, economic and political. On the other side you have a country like India, emerging as an international power, do you think that Hurriyat would be able to guarantee even food for a single day for Kashmiris, if you were to go with Pakistan ?
Abbas Ansari: No we are not saying that, what we are saying is that Kashmiris should be given a right to decide what they want to do. This right of self determination was agreed to by India, Pakistan and the international community as well.
Just remember that when Pt Nehru came to Kashmir in 1947, he had said that Kashmiris would be given the right to decide with whom they want to live, justice would be done with them. Nehru had said that if kashmiris decided to go with Pakistan, he would be sad, but would not stop them. He had also said they are welcome to be a part of India.
Now, today the platform of Hurriyat does not simply say that give us the right to self determination or implement the UN resolutions. What we are also saying is that Kashmiris should be involved in any talks over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Therefore you are wrong to say that Kashmiris simply want to be with Pakistan only. There are many streams of thought, some want to be with Pakistan, some want independent Kashmir. What we are saying is that leadership of all parts of Kashmir, whether it be Jammu, Valley, Leh or north or west frontier, let them all meet and decide. If the Kashmiris decide they want to be with India, we will have no objection, but give them the right to decide.
BBC listener from Peshawar (Pakistan) : At the moment, the way India and Pakistan are working towards normalising their relations, don’t you think that forces like the Hurriyat would soon be rendered irrelevant ?
Abbas Ansari: I would in fact like to ask you, that is this a land dispute ? Isn’t this a human problem, involving millions of people. Don’t they have a right to decide about their lives. India also believes in honouring people’s verdict, so does Pakistan.
Are we talking about separating a herd of cattle. Hurriyat says that any decision whether it be for one billion Indians or 18 crore Pakistanis or Kashmiris should allow these people to exercise their rights and get justice. Till then the world would continue to focus attention at this region.
What we are saying is that give the right of self determination to the Kashmiris, and then whatever be the decision, we would accept it without any grudge. If Kashmiris want to stay with India after the referendum, we would have no problem.
But please do not talk about cosmetic steps of the government like resumption of the Lahore bus. Till the time you wash the blood in Kashmir with concrete steps like involving Kashmiris in the talks process, there would be no use of all this.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : Mr Ansari you are talking about people’s decision. Last year elections were held in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Don’t you think it was the verdict of the people in which more than forty per cent of the electorate participated ?
Abbas Ansari: No, I don’t think that it was the verdict of the people. We did talk to the people at that time and they said they wanted to remove the Farooq Abdullah regime. People said they were tired of such a regime since 1947, which has driven them to misery. The people of Kashmir were given sweet promises of a better life by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the election campaign, he had spoken about releasing detainees from jails etc., but now people are realising that all the promises have not been fulfilled.
BBC listener from Meerut : Hurriyat did not participate in the elections in Kashmir, how do you claim to be the people’s representatives then ?
Abbas Ansari: See if you want the Hurriyat to contest elections, Hurriyat is ready to contest. But the unfortunate part is that whether it is Indian or Pakistani Kashmir, you have to take an oath that it is an integral part of the country concerned. Sheikh Abdullah had signed an agreement with Indira Gandhi declaring Kashmir as an integral part of India. But is it an integral part? Are not the killings and disruptive activities taking place without any break? But what he did was to deceive the people of Kashmir for 22 years. If you talk about elections, then conduct them either under Non Aligned or SAARC or UN - we would be ready to participate then, and you would come to know who has the support of the people.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : But Mr Ansari, had you participated in the assembly elections, wouldn’t you have come to know of your support and how much the people listen to you ?
Abbas Ansari: See there was party even before Hurriyat, it was known as Muslim Mutahida Mahaz -
I am talking of the elections of 1987- if you can try to get the newspapers of that time and read yourself about what sort of large scale malpractices and violence were done to ensure that these candidates do not win. Even the chief ministerial candidate Farooq Abdullah was at one point trailing by 10,000. Later the results showed that a total of 3,000 votes were polled there, and he was declared winner !
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : Mr Ansari, you have levelled a charge of electoral malpractices. Had you participated, don’t you think that your support would have been known worldwide ?
Abbas Ansari: Yes, It would have been. But then it would have been hypocritical on our part, if on one hand had we accepted an oath which declares Kashmir as an integral part of India, and on the other, we are fighting for its independence. We represent the wishes of the people, and would participate only when candidates are not required to sign an oath in this regard. We do not want to adopt a dual policy in this matter and we are clear on this issue.
BBC listener from Jaipur : Mr Ansari you are talking about independence of Kashmir from India, why don’t you demand independence of Kashmir which is under the control of Pakistan ?
Abbas Ansari: My dear friend, this is what I am saying that when Indian Kashmir is referred to as heaven on earth, so is the Independent Kashmir. But please first allow Kashmiris on both sides to sit and decide which is the real heaven. We want to talk and see who is better and what are the differences in the lives of people here and there.
Allow intra Kashmiri dialogue and if after that we find that the Indian Kashmir is better, we would go for this, but give us the right first.
BBC listener from Bahrain : If you represent Kashmiris, why are you afraid of elections then ? Why has your appeal to those shedding blood in Kashmir gone unnoticed ?
Abbas Ansari: The appeal did not have effect, because recently the Indian deputy Prime Minister said that operation sarp vinash has been started. This only resulted in escalation of violence as they felt that India is not sincere in ending violence. We want them to believe that India has sincerity of purpose. When detainees would be released from the jails, and this killing spree is brought to an end, we can force them also to give up violence. But before that the difficulties of people living in Indian Kashmir would have to be removed.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : Mr Ansari you have said that people in Indian Kashmir are leading bad lives, what about those in the Pakistani Kashmir ?
Abbas Ansari: See till the time I do not see what is happening there with my own eyes I would not like to comment. I do not trust the radio and the TV, which show it as heaven on earth. I want to meet my brothers and see how they are. Only after that would I be able to say something.
BBC listener from Gwalior : India would never agree to give up Kashmir and Pakistan would not settle for anything else. Why don’t you accept a solution like that of BODO and other organisations of North East and start believing in Indian democracy ?
Abbas Ansari: See, these two situations are totally different. For Kashmir, it was India which first said that Kashmiris will be given right of self determination. It was India which went to the UN and it made more efforts than Pakistan at that time. We were promised the right, what happened to that ?
So far as the Indian democracy is concerned, we have seen that Sheikh Abdullah had come to power with full majority and then how his government was dismissed ? We have seen how the polling takes place and what all happens here in the name of democracy.
What we want is that we sit as friends with India and Pakistan and decide about the future of Kashmir.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : But it is being said that India and Pakistan are under pressure from the US to talk, would Hurriyat accept such talks ?
Abbas Ansari: I have never endorsed this. I am saying that India and Pakistan are sovereign and independent countries, they should know about their well being, they should sit and sort out their differences.
Following the road map of any other nation, would not help in solving this issue. They should both sit and talk, and the solution would only come when both these nations involve Kashmiris from sides of the border.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : Mr Ansari, India and Pakistan have talked many times on this issue, without any success, Pakistan now says that a third party can mediate and they name America. If India and Pakisdtan talk with the third party, what is your objection to it ?
Abbas Ansari: If any solution were to be found by the third party, it will not work. For a moment, or say superficially it may seem a solution, but it will not work, as it would be lacking in trust and mutual belief.
If India and Pakistan want any bridge, let it be the Kashmiris, as when the bombs fall from both sides they fall on the Kashmiris, let them be the bridge between the two countries.
Nagendar Sharma, BBC : Mr Ansari you are opposed to American intervention, but you have said either Iran or Nelson Mandela can mediate. If Iran can, why not America ?
Abbas Ansari: Why I have proposed Iran is because it is a friend of both countries. It has been a friend of Pakistan for many years, why I am talking about this is that when India and Pakistan signed the Shimla agreement, they did not talk about the entire Kashmir. What is now happening is that India wants to talk about Pakistani Kashmir and Pakistan wants the opposite.
Therefore let both these countries talk about the entire Kashmir.
Transcript courtesy, BBC Hindi radio.