An Exclusive Interview With A Nonagenarian Freedom Fighter Of Kashmir
Interviewed by: *Mujtaba Hussain & Jitamanyu Sahoo
A 95-year-old Kashmiri, Dr Mohammad Shafi who is Doctor by profession and a gold medallist of his times, discusses the current round of troubles in Kashmir. He talks about the need for an ‘Azadi Narrative’ in Kashmir. He explains why stone pelting has become a routine feature of street protest. He is pessimistic about any possibility of a sustained process of peace in Kashmir. However, he strongly advocates Plebiscite and maintains that the solution to the Kashmir issue is reposed in it.
How do you view the present situation in Kashmir?
Answer: It’s a people’s revolution. I am an eye witness to people’s glances, shrugs and chance remarks. Kashmiris are the master of their destiny and are final arbitrators of their fate. The sentiment is alive and kicking. The youth who were born amidst the noise of the guns constituted the front line in the recent uprising in the valley. Years of angst that have been burdened is now being witnessed of being transmitted from one generation to the other. The sentiment of expectation and expectancy is alive for tomorrow also. Kashmiris have to strike a balance between adjustability and adaptability where he can fight and live together.
Before the birth of Pakistan and Freedom of India in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was an independent and sovereign country.
Separatists frequently call for strikes which affect common masses?
Answer: The Hurriyat had given calls for the strike and peaceful protests over some time. I can understand that people have suffered, students have suffered. Students are our future of Kashmir. However, in this situation leadership needs to formulate a strategy where people have to bear minimum problems.
What forced the Kashmiris to take arms in the late 1980’s?
Answer: From 1931 to 1947 and 1953 to 1988, the Kashmiris used all means of nonviolence to achieve their rights but it was unfortunate that the State of India did not provide space for our nonviolent movement. In 1986 Muslim United Front(MUF) came into existence and decided to participate in the elections. MUF also decided if voted to power it would bring a revolution in the assembly for the right to self-determination for the people Jammu and Kashmir. In assembly election held in 1987, March, MUF could win only four seats out of 87 as the elections were rigged and immediately after the announcement of results hundreds of MUF activists were arrested and were booked under Public Safety Act. And by this way, the gun came in our movement.
Do you accept the gun played a role in highlighting Kashmir issue?
Answer: The ground reality of Kashmir is changing slowly and steadily but it can clearly be gauged from the history of guns in Kashmir. I believe the gun played a significant role in giving impetus to the Kashmir issue. Gun created a roar and it was heard all over for the world. For any movement to thrive you need various components. So a gun in our movement was significant for our cause. There are people who have their own beliefs and ideology for the struggle. I am committed to one belief and my other friends may have other beliefs.
What role should the main stream political parties play in the resolution of Kashmir issue?
Answer: The India political parties have collectively accepted the political nature of the Kashmir problem. However, the political space through which the resolution of the Kashmir issue can be addressed is shrinking. A political package that addresses the Kashmir problem within a proper time frame is what the main stream political parties need’s to address immediately. Moreover, every Kashmiri citizen has a role to play but it has to be played honestly and everybody has to play a sincere role. Miracles do not happen over night. Let it be everyone’s voice that must matter.
Why is the Azadi narrative so important for the Kashmir issue?
Answer: The Azadi narrative dates back to the years when it was declared by the United Nations that Kashmiris have a right to self-determination. Azadi means ‘Azad Kashmir’ ‘Azad from India’ ‘Azad from Pakistan’ where the people are free to determine their own political status and are free to pursue their own cultural, economic and social development. Kashmiris should have the absolute right to claim Self-Determination.
Is Kashmir turning into a police state?
Answer: Kashmir has already become a police state. The paramilitaries and police have tried everything to suppress this new wave of dissent that has risen in the valley. Last year bloody summer in Kashmir have not only witnessed deaths of innocent civilians but also the introduction of draconian measures to suppress the voice of the Kashmiris by the State forces.
How do you see the recently concluded by-elections in Srinagar where the voter turnout was extremely poor?
Answer: I think first we have to draw a line between an election and a plebiscite. The election is a democratic process as far as government formation is concerned, and a plebiscite is a democratic exercise as far as the future dispensation of Kashmir is concerned. The election for us is a non-issue. We seek a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The plebiscite is right that was guaranteed to the Kashmiris.
What is the most important thing the Indian Government should do?
Answer: The Indian Government must understand the Kashmir issue in the right perspectives. India’s own interest is attached to the land of the Kashmir and not with the Kashmiri people. Moreover, Pakistan wants Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. But we want Right of Self-determination where the Kashmiris can decide their own future.
To you what is the solution?
Answer: There are two ways out of the current Kashmir turbulence. One is through the proper and effective implementation of the Plebiscite which India promised in 1949 at the United Nations. The other is ‘Azad Kashmir’
What’s your message to the youth of Kashmir?
Answer: I believe if youth gets proper guidance, they can change the fortune of the nation. Kashmiri youth has to play an important role in nation building. Present generation youth is better educated and equipped than the generations before. Kashmiri youths are courageous and are willing to work for the development of Kashmir. My sole message to the youth is to be vigilant and non-violent as possible.
*Mujtaba Hussain is a renowned Human Rights Activist from Kashmir and Jitamanyu Sahoo is a Human Rights Defender from Orissa. Both are studying and researching the Changing Dynamics of Democracy in Kashmir.
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