“India has to accept that Kashmir is a tripartite issue”

Hizb ul Mujahideen supreme commander and United Jehad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin has said that in principle he was not against dialogue on Kashmir but “India has to accept that it is a tripartite issue.”

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Mr. Salahuddin said that in the past the talks had “proved futile.” “So far India and Pakistan have talked at least 155 times but nothing tangible has been achieved. So it is time to move forward and take new steps to address the issue by having talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris.”

Asked whether he would accept any offer of dialogue from New Delhi, he said: “It is not up to me. If that situation comes I will consult my people as also UJC executive council.” He reaffirmed that he was not against dialogue but there was no guarantee that it would be a success in the absence of involvement of all the three parties.

“Before 1989, we tried all democratic means to impress upon India to resolve the Kashmir issue,” said Salahuddin who fought the 1987 Assembly elections under his real name Mohammad Yousuf Shah but was “defeated” by the then National Conference leader Mohiuddin Shah.

Poll rigging

Looking back at those elections as a “factor” for resorting to the gun, he said: “By large-scale rigging in those elections, New Delhi performed the last rites of democracy in Kashmir.” Deeply hurt by the “vandalism of the NC-Congress alliance” at that time, he alleged that “Farooq Abdullah himself came to polling booth in Sarai Bala and threw ballot boxes out of the window. Even Mohiuddin Shah's family members voted for me,” he claimed. “But I was arrested and sent to Hira Nagar jail. JKLF chief Yasin Malik and others were working for me. They were also tortured and sent to jail,” he said adding that the then Divisional Commissioner Hamidullah Khan and DIG Kashmir A.M. Watali “played havoc with the democratic process under the directions of Farooq Abdullah.”

“What can we expect from this hollow democracy now,” asked Salahuddin who crossed over to other side of the Line of Control in 1994 and has been heading his organisation to continue the “armed struggle” in Kashmir.

Ruling out donning a political role in the near future, Salahuddin said: “I don't think I can take responsibility because the armed struggle must continue [so as] to bring India to the [negotiating] table to resolve the issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people. Our fight will continue and there is no looking back.” .

He said: “We are keeping an eye on the Hurriyat Conference and other leadership and from time to time to advise them on critical issues..” He ruled out any possibility of heading a joint political forum like the erstwhile-united Hurriyat.

“I'm not a fugitive”

The Hizb supremo ridiculed the Indian government's “insistence” on including his name in the “50 most wanted list” “First look at the credibility of the list. Many people who figured in it have surfaced in India,” he said. “I am not in an alien land. Azad Kashmir is part of Jammu and Kashmir and I can move anywhere in any part of the State without any hindrance. So I am not a fugitive.”

“Muzaffarabad is our base camp but we do not have training camps here. We train our boys in the Indian side of Kashmir in dense forests. Over a period of time we have learnt how to move.”

Panchayat polls

Unfazed by the large participation of people in Panchayat elections, he said: “They have no bearing on our struggle. They are being held purely for addressing local issues and that is good.”

“Militant leadership had not taken any decision to target the candidates, nor we called for a boycott. But most of the time, political rivalry and Indian agencies are to blame for these killings.

He blamed agencies for creating “civil-war” like situation in the Valley. “After massive participation of people in the pro-freedom protests, agencies want to break the peoples' coordination. They target local poll candidates to create rift among people.”

He also distanced himself from the issue of killing of Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees president Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah. “There are several rumours associated with the killing. Some say he became a victim of the bickering within his party. Others allege Moulana sahib was close to the establishment due to which he was targeted by the radical elements. There can be difference of opinion but such killings are inhuman acts.”

Rejecting the police version, he said the UJC was making efforts to expose the killers of Moulana Showkat. “Agencies are creating hostile environment for pro-freedom leaders so that they can be targeted and mujahideen can be blamed.”Rejecting government's claims about the rehabilitation policy, he said, “Indian agencies are forcing families of militants and migrants to return. Two or three migrant families might have applied due to some compulsions, but that doesn't mean militants want to go back and surrender. It is a blatant lie.”

On disturbances in Pakistan, he agreed “it was a matter of concern.”