What was your first reaction to Afzal Guru’s hanging?
Afzal sahab was hanged at February 9 at 9 am; Delhi Police personnel in large numbers entered my room. Lady constables were made to sit in the next room. The male police officers were in my room. There was no formal document or an able officer who could explain why I was being kept under house arrest. They probably thought that after Afzal’s martyrdom, I will fly to Srinagar to be a part of the protests which would follow. My intention was indeed to return to Kashmir, which they anticipated quickly. For 19 days, I was kept locked in these two rooms. Most painfully, for the first 32 hours, the security personnel did not even leave my room, neither was I allowed to go out. Even when I prepared for the Friday prayers, I was not allowed to go. It was a Congress decision in haste. They did not apply their minds. BJP wanted Afzal to be hanged and the Congress played along, thinking they could use it as ploy against the main opposition party in the upcoming elections. That is why they hung Afzal, without leaking any information. It was a judicial and a political murder. Afzal himself was not part of the group which attacked the Indian Parliament. All the attackers were killed on the spot. At that time, I had condemned the event in the strongest possible terms. These are terrorist actions and we’ll never agree with them. Afzal was never given a chance in the trial court, he was not given an opportunity to defend himself. It was a human rights violation that even the family wasn’t informed before he was hanged.
The execution was followed by a blanket curfew in Kashmir.
That is very obvious. India’s actions are so brutal that it is clear that she wants to remain in Kashmir on the basis of brute force. They do not want people to get their birthright, they do not want democracy and freedom to speak, write and travel. All our basic rights are being crushed. Before coming to Delhi in December 2012, I was kept under house-arrest for nine months in Kashmir. The same happened in 2011, 2010 and 2009. Even when my son-in-law Iftikhar’s father passed away, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral. I cannot attend wedding ceremonies of relatives. India’s attitude only shows their arrogance. Curfew is clamped and four youngsters have been killed.
You were at Jantar Mantar protesting Afzal Guru’s hanging. What were you demanding?
I was at Jantar Mantar to talk about India’s lapses. When I reached Srinagar on March 7, I was picked up at the airport and taken home, ostensibly for security reasons. There is a lot of official security at home. It’s a lame excuse to hide India’s brutality. What can I do if I am not allowed to meet my neighbour Afzal Guru from Sopore? I wanted to go to meet Tabassum beti to offer my condolences directly from the airport. It is my moral responsibility and right as a Muslim. Our demand is that Afzal’s dead body should be returned to the family since they can offer prayers as per ritual. It will bring a sense of satisfaction.
Did Omar Abdullah have a role?
Home Ministry had released a statement soon after the hanging which stated that “we have taken the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir into confidence”. This means that the Chief Minister was taken in confidence well in advance. Now if he says we were not asked or we didn’t know anything, these are crocodile tears. Just like Farooq Abdullah had signed Maqbool Bhatt’s death warrant, Omar Abdullah is involved this time.
JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik shared stage with most-wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan.
(laughing) This is an irrelevant question for me. No need to answer it.
I interviewed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salauddin in June last year. He said armed struggle in the valley will never stop. Hasn’t Kashmir seen enough bloodshed?
The responsibility of armed struggle of 1990 lies with India. They are not ready to resolve the dispute according to the commitments made through peaceful means. When you push a community to the wall, what is the alternative? If militancy and gun culture re-surface in Kashmir, the responsibility lies on the Indian government and not the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2008 and 2010, lakhs of people came out on the streets in protest but India took no notice. In 2010 an Indian parliamentary delegation came to seek commitment for talks. No one says no to talks. I am ready for talks but they have to be meaningful and result-oriented. That cannot happen till India agrees that Jammu and Kashmir is not a part of India and is a disputed territory. This should be followed by removal of armed forces and release of political prisoners. This will pave the way for talks. Otherwise we’ve had talked more than 150 times without any result. What is the alternative? Should we submit to the rule of the armed forces in Kashmir?
The armed struggle forced an exodus of the entire Kashmiri Pandit community from the valley in 1990.
Kashmiri Pandits are our neighbours. The relationship I have had with Pandits in my lifetime cannot be measured on any scale. They are part of our society. The migration of Pandits to Jammu and other parts of India has left a void. Now living in India, their interests have increased. The new generation of Pandits do not want to return to Kashmir. While we suffer, safe zones for Pandits are being built here. We welcome their return but they should stay in their own place of residences, not safe zones. By making safe zones, we’re being separated. We are a mixed society. This way Pandits would feel isolated and lead a life of fear. When protests erupt, you cannot expect everyone to be the same. Someone from the mob can throw a stone at a Hindu colony. How many will you stop? How can you identify them? There should be no division among the Kashmiris, either on the basis of religion or geography That is the best way forward.