The recent Assembly by-elections were a success for your party and this time people participated overwhelmingly. How do you see it?
It was because of the general improvement in the situation between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has realised that it can not carry on supporting violence in Kashmir as the world opinion has changed about terrorism.
All the Kashmiri groups including Hurriyat Conferences – both headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Geelani sahib and every body else realises that Kashmiris are suffering and they need some reprieve.
It is the Kashmiri who is dying. We suffer by grenade attacks from the militants. All these attacks kill or injure innocent civilians – Kashmiris and not the Indian army and security forces.
If militants only targeted Indian forces would u look at it differently.
No it is not viewing things differently. Those people targeting the Army or paramilitary forces do not realise that their actions are causing misery to the innocent civilians.
India is creating an atmosphere wherein innocents are targeted. Indian Home Minister earlier said that there is semblance of peace in Kashmir as tourists are flocking. After this statement tourists were attacked. That was a provocation?
Of course such things are hard. We have to tread very carefully. All these confidence building measures between India and Pakistan are really fragile. They can be rolled back any time if India and Pakistan do not act faster enough to resolve the long standing Kashmir issue.
Do you agree that the recent election in Kashmir is not a verdict for the future of Kashmir problem?
Of course not. Elections in Kashmir is not a verdict that Kashmir problem is solved. It is not rai shumari (right of self determination). It is not plebiscite.
People want development… they want their roads to be fixed, health care improvements, jobs and education. The vote was for that and nothing else. If somebody will say that it is for India or Pakistan that is totally wrong.
Previously your position was that elections were held…..?
Elections were always held…even when the gun was reigning supreme. Whether 5 percent, ten percent or thirty percent.
Previously your position was that elections are held here regularly and that was a verdict that people are with India.
If you think you will get azadi or become part of Pakistan you are dreaming. Kashmir will always remain with India. Even the Hurriyat leaders who fooled people with the slogans of azadi have now realised that they can’t achieve it and are talking with India both openly and secretly. They have realised the futility of hollow slogans. What is possible and what we could get is complete internal autonomy.
Well if autonomy was the case, your previous government tired its best, but Indian government humiliated you.
Not at all. Please remember that things don’t remain the same. In the coming round table (second) conference what are they going to talk there? The internal autonomy is on the agenda. Autonomy is the only hope in hell we have got. Pakistan does not have the strength to take Kashmir by force. They’ve tried many times before and now have given up as it did not work.
If Pakistan has realised that it can’t take Kashmir by force, has India realised that it can’t keep Kashmir by force either.
Yes they have realised that as well. Otherwise why is India willing to talk to Pakistan or why should India talk to Kashmiris now.
Indian willingness to talk does not say anything about their intensions. They talked to your father and other leaders. They have talked with Pakistan on numerous occasions.
That time is gone now. If you still look at those times, you will never move forward.
Prior to the first Round Table Conference, you said that the Indian autonomy offer is only to change the nomenclature and nothing else.
No, those times have gone now. The Indian Prime Minister Narsimha Rao once said that sky is the limit, but his sky was changing the nomenclature but we did not accept that.
Though the BJP government rejected our autonomy resolution, the current Indian government has shown its willingness to talk about it. That is why they are talking to the Hurriyat conference and others.
So all this talk with the Hurriyat leaders is not for azadi but autonomy?
Of course it is for autonomy. The Hurriyat leaders know that they can’t get azadi and Pakistan also knows that. That is why they have directed the Hurriyat to talk to India.
If that is the case, will you join the Mirwaiz led Hurriyat to form a new government?
We don’t know. Let us see….
But are you in touch with them?
Yes we are in touch with many Kashmiri groups.
What about Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. His father was your close associate and you had alliance with him called Double Farooq Ittihad?
Inshallah, you will soon see Double-Umar ittehad as well.
But Isn’t Mirwaiz’s family bitter towards you, as Mouvli Farooq was killed because of his electoral association with the National Conference.
Not because of National Conference. Moulvi sahib was killed because he was secular and pro-Indian Kashmiri. Pakistan-trained militants were afraid to face him politically so they eliminated him.
It was governor Jagmohan who is responsible for his killing because Mirwaiz had begged him for security but he denied it. Mirwaiz knew that he was under threat, but Jagmohan did not like any Kashmiri Muslim whether secular or otherwise.
How can the Hurriyat join you in power share when in 1996, you allowed constitutional sanctity to renegades who had committed atrocities on Hurriyat sympathisers and activists?
Listen we made Javed Shah and from Bhaderwah an educated guy Baba…(Fridous Syed) as Members of Legislative Council (MLCs). We wanted to give message that people who had left gun or those who wanted to leave gun have a future. We wanted them to know that they could have a place in the future of Kashmir and to show that gun has no future.
But the reports suggest that the Military Intelligence prevailed upon you that renegade militants have to be involved in the electoral process.
No that was not the case. What India and Pakistan do is up to them, but we wanted to put the message out.
Farooq sahib, I was told by at least two of your very senior party leaders that military intelligence wanted more renegades into your ranks so that they can spy on you and I have since reconfirmed it with them.
Smiling…. Well they have gone now… so now one can spy on us….
I would like to ask you a couple of questions about 1987 elections. It is generally believed that when your government employed massive rigging in 1987 against opposition Muslim United Front (MUF) including the candidates like Syed Salahudin, it laid foundation of the armed struggle.
No I don’t agree. If you think that losing of elections by four people is the cause of gun you are living in dark ages. These people used symbols of green flag, Quran and names of Allah and Muhammad in calligraphy on their flags to exploit the feelings of the people which was against the election rules. I saw that for the first time and I came back and cried in front of my mother saying that mother they are asking people to vote for Allah. Does He need our votes.
If there was any such allegation of rigging, why didn’t they go to the Election Commission.
Your government did not give them a chance Farooq sahib. Soon after the elections were over, they were arrested, beaten and tortured. Even one of Salahudin’s election agents and future militant commander Hamid Sheikh of JKLF was beaten up and tortured by one of your senior minister.
That is not true. Hamid Sheikh was from a National Conference family and today his father is a National Conference man. He comes and sees me in this very room.
That does not mean Hamid Sheikh was National Conference man.
He was a National Conference man for your information.
So did he die as an National Conference man?
No, he died as a man who wanted to die.
For what cause?
For that man….. You don’t know the inner story. He was working for Inspector General Police (IG) Patel who was an intelligence man. Patel was trying to bargain something for Hamid Sheikh, but it did not work out and in the end Patel got him eliminated.
So you blame IG Patel for his death?
If Hamid Sheikh was NC man, you earlier opposed his release in exchange of the then Home Minister Mufti Sayeed’s daughter?
Yes I opposed the move knowing that it will boost militancy. Release of the militants gave their militant movement a flip as they thought they will drive India from Kashmir like Afghans had done with Russia. But look where are we now. Have they driven out India? Today India is occupying us more than ever. The army is acquiring thousands of kanals of land everywhere in Kashmir for building huge new basis.
You recently said that India is remilitarising Kashmir amid growing demands for demilitarisation.
It is remilitarisation. It is not me who is saying that. Ask any one in Kashmir. The army is taking 7,000 kanals of land in Awantipore area only. What are they for? India is remilitarising Kashmir on a very large scale and there is no demilitarisation.
If that is the case how are we even thinking about India willing to solve the Kashmir issue. Isn’t then India misleading Kashmiris, Pakistan and world opinion?
What is world opinion? Don’t you see Palestine? Hamas has come to power through democratic process but yet they are being victimised and they have no money. Americans are killing people everywhere and aiding Israel, stopping money to Palestinian government and now let us see how Arabs are going to give them money.
Let us talk about something that is unique to the National Conference. Your organisation fought for land reforms in Kashmir freeing Kashmiris from the centuries old land grab and exploitation of Pandits. But now that land is again being forcibly taken by the army everywhere as you also said earlier. Why don’t you launch a public campaign against this exploitation and land occupation. This issue certainly must be an emotional one for you.
No I am not going to get Kashmiris killed on the roads. If you want to do that, go to somewhere else.
But you claim to be a mass leader Doctor sahib and I am sure if you raise the issue you will get support and there are still UN resolutions on Kashmir that would mean extra help?
What UN resolutions? The UN is an impotent organisation working for American and Western interests…We should accept the reality that we have to work with India and Pakistan to resolve the crisis.
But how can we work with India when we have been occupied by them?
What occupation? Is Pakistani Kashmir not occupied? Why are you talking only about Indian occupied Kashmir why not Pakistani occupied one?
At least the people there are not being killed.
Who tells you that. Go and see yourself what do they do to the people who are opposed to their rule. You know that you will have to sign that Kashmir banega Pakistan and then only can you stand for elections.
But same is the case on this side of Kashmir?
No the case is not same. Here we have the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.
Farooq Sahib that Constitution was long buried. It has no relevance now.
Recently Mehbooba Mufti, your political opponent called slain militants as martyrs during a public rally. What is your opinion?
But what is your opinion.
I don’t have any opinion.
Are they terrorists, mujahideen, militants?
I can’t say. I don’t have any opinion about it.
Previously you called them terrorists when you were in power.
No I don’t want to answer this. And it is my prerogative whether to answer or not.
You have gone to numerous world forums and attended conferences representing India. What did you do there?
There is nothing except meetings, few speeches and resolutions which are all useless.
But didn’t you play against the national interest of Kashmiris by pleading Indian case.
I still plead the Indian case. Please listen to me that I am not a Pakistani nor do I want Azadi. This is all loose talk. Those people who think they can survive in azadi with such huge borders with China, India and Pakistan must be living in Cuckoo world….We can’t even pay for our electricity or survive without any assistance.
Despite the fact that we have huge water resources.
That is true. I want to build dams but I can’t as Pakistan is raking up due to the Indus Water Treaty. …. I made Baghliar project with great difficulty.
It was the Indian government that had the treaty with Pakistan, thus depriving us of our fair share of water.
Question is not who did it.
You earlier said that you are not Pakistani. Does that mean any freedom loving Kashmiri who wants Kashmir to be free is a Pakistani?
I never said that such people are Pakistanis. I just wanted to erase that impression from you that I am not Pakistani but a Kashmiri.
Does that mean Kashmiris are Indians?
No I didn’t say that either. There are some Indians, lots of pro-Pakistanis and pro-independence. What can I do? People have their own opinions. This is a free country and they are entitled to have their own opinion.
Some people believe that when Maqbool Bhat was hanged in 1984 it was the first step towards militancy.
…(Laughing)… The militancy was started here by Pakistan not by Maqbool Bhat. He was handed over to the police by the Kashmiri people himself.
Have you met with Maqbool Bhat.
Yes I have.
How do you rate him?
I don’t know. I don’t want to say. The man is dead. Let him remain in peace.
Some people say that you were instrumental in getting him hanged.
What do I have to do with his hanging? He killed an innocent bank manager while taking money from the bank. He was later hanged because of Ravinder Mahatre who was killed by the JKLF in the UK.
You agree then that it was a political killing when you say that Maqbool Bhat was killed because JKLF had killed Mahatre in UK?
Why should I agree. He had already killed an innocent bank manager. Why don’t you remember him and his family when he stole money from the bank.
You signed his final hanging order.
I did not sign anything. For God’s sake Farooq Abdullah does not sign anything. It was the government of India who decided things.
But as head of the government you were sent the final warrant by the Supreme Court of India.
So what does that mean? I still do not matter. It was all up to government of India. The Indian government was secretly negotiating with Pakistan to exchange Maqbool Bhat and few other people in Indian jails but the Pakistani authorities washed off their hands saying they had nothing to do with this. Thus Maqbool Bhat’s fate was sealed. Why don’t you say that. Simply because you don’t know anything about that. When JKLF killed Mahatre, the Indians said that they should teach the other side a lesson.
You could have still saved him.
For God’s sake we live in a civilised state. If a man was charge sheeted and convicted, Farooq Abdullah can not save a man from gallows. The only person who can do that is the president of India.
But as a Kashmiri you could have resisted.
No I could not have. Please don’t even think about that. You live in the so-called free world. See the conditions of Muslims in your part of the world. Have you seen the figure of innocent Muslims being harassed and jailed in the UK under the pretext of terrorism.
When you say that I live in a free world. Does that mean even as Chief Minister of Kashmir you are not allowed to operate freely?
Are you free in England?
Of course I am.
My foot. You wait till you say something and they put you in jail and then you know what life is like.
Let me rephrase it again. As Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir you were not free.
In certain matters no body is free.
People also say that you have been a member of JKLF.
I have never been a member of JKLF. I have always been a National Conference man.
May be because you had gone to Azad Kashmir.
So what? I have always been to different parts of the world. That does not mean I belong to that place or to any other group. I was never JKLF.
But people say you also wanted independent Kashmir.
Please don’t put wrong words in my mouth.
Farooq sahib when you went to Pakistan to meet former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhuttoo while Sheikh sahib was in jail, I have heard that he said to you to convey it to your father that Pakistan can no longer help therefore Kashmiris should fend for themselves. Is it true?
At Shimla both India and Pakistan had agreed to divide Kashmir on the basis what India has is India’s and what Pakistan has is Pakistan’s. This was an understanding between Indira Gandhi and Bhuttoo as Pakistan had lost East Pakistan.
Now that your son went and met with President Musharraf. What transpired between the two. Did Musharraf say that same thing to Omar?
You should ask this to Omar.
You must have talked to him.
That doesn’t matter. You better talk to him.
You did not say what happened in your meeting with Bhutto?
That was a good talk and let us leave it there.
Will we see it in your book?
You will see it in my book but it won’t be too soon.
Farooq sahib thousands of people died in Kashmir since 1988. Who do you blame for all this?
I can’t blame anyone. Let us just forget about the past. It was all madness. Many of our people were also killed.
That is no answer.
That is the answer I give. It was our fate.
What is your stand on the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir particularly those committed by the Indian paramilitary forces.
It is well documented. Farooq Abdullah does not have to say anything.
But you took a strong exception to your political rival Mehbooba Mufti when she continuously spoke against human rights violations by the Army during your tenure. You even threatened to throw her out of the Assembly.
I did not throw her out. She resigned herself. Where do you get these reports. Did you see in the media in UK?
How do you see the media conduct in Kashmir?
I don’t want to comment on that.
Okay let us talk of the record.
There is nothing of the record. There is nothing of the record with the journalists. I used to be very frank in the past, but not any more.
The present peace process between India and Pakistan is going very slowly. What is the reason?
Well it is a process. Congress has the commitment, it seems, to solve the problem but they have to tread carefully.
The Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) is now saying that this process should be stopped forthwith and that it is against the national interests of India.
BJP has a different position and they are militant in approach. They don’t want Congress to win the credit and I think they don’t want Kashmir issue to be settled as they can continue to use it fanning the communal trouble in India and thereby keep their vote bank.
Let us change the subject. You are famous for many other things like flirting with women, motorbike rides with Shabana Azami etc. Do you miss those rides around Dal Lake?
……. (Smiles on his face, but no words)
Is this a form of defence?
…(Smiling again)… I am not trying to defend myself. I don’t want to defend myself. I am not god. That is me. I can’t change and I say it openly because I am not a crook. I don’t do things under the carpet. I do things on the carpet.
But do you miss Shabana Azami and the rides?
Why are you asking it? Twenty years ago I did something and you harp on that. And the situation is such that now it is not even possible to go for a ride due to security reasons.
(At this time we started hearing loud voices of Allah-u-Akbar – God is great from hundreds of National Conference workers who had gathered in the courtyard to celebrate the election win and Farooq Abdullah asked us to hurry).
Do you feel suffocated by all this security around?
What can you do? It is just not me, the whole Kashmir is like this. I just have to live with it.
What do you think about inclusion of militant leadership like Syed Salahudin in the peace process between India and Pakistan?
Those people who hold the gun have a role to play and they should be included in the peace process.
The Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad says that militants should not be involved in the process and that they should be dealt with sternly.
I don’t agree with his view. The militants have the most important role to play and they are the people who can bring real peace. Majid Dar tried it last time and it was a good opportunity, but India handled it very badly.
I want to ask you a question about Indian Muslims. What is your opinion about growing anti-Muslim attacks in India.
It is a major problem. Muslims are being targeted increasingly and killed even by the state machinery which is very worrying. This makes it more imperative that Kashmir has to be solved to stop those fascist forces in India to sow the seeds of hatred and destruction.
There is a continuous propaganda going on that Kashmiri Pandits were thrown out by the Kashmiri Muslims. Do you agree with that?
No I don’t agree with that. But the situation was such that they were frightened that they could be a target. And the Governor of that time Jagmohan told them to go away for some time promising them that they will be brought back.
So Jagmohan instigated their exodus?
Yes of course he did it. I have always said that. I am on record to say that.
What is your opinion about Jagmohan?
I think… I don’t think I should give an opinion about him.
Farooq sahib your father sheikh Abdullah was unquestionably the greatest Kashmiri leader, but knowing the destruction and unsettlement of Kashmir issue, would you agree that his approach was not correct.
No his approach was correct.
If that was so why are so many people still dying?
Well if you carry gun and go astray the killings are bound to happen. You can’t blame my father for that. How did these draconian laws get in here.. today any army person can get into our house and do whatever he wants without us stopping him. Who brought this misery on us….
If our boys wouldn’t have taken up arms all this wouldn’t have happened.
There are many historians and academicians who blame Sheikh Abdullah for all what has happened since 1947.
Alright who shall we blame for 1947. Maharaja asked for time but who invaded here? Then Maharaja got scared and he signed the Accession and the Indian army came here. Had they not attacked, India would not have come and we would have either been part of Pakistan or independent now. Don’t blame my father… read the history in its true sense not from emotions or heresy.
You can’t blame everything on Pakistan. India treated us like a colony. We are just slaves.
Isn’t is true that Pakistan is behind all this. Who is doing all this? Where did these guns and grenades come from?
That is fine, but you can’t ignore huge anti-India sentiment among the people.
Now did they get Pakistan? All that happened is destruction.
That was done by India. The sentiment is for independence from India.
What sentiments are you talking about? You are living elsewhere. You don’t see what Kashmiris are going through. The slogan of Azadi was wrong… otherwise they’d have got it by now.
You are talking about autonomy for more than ten years now but you didn’t get it. Does that mean your autonomy slogan is wrong?
Not it is not the question of that. We will get autonomy and that too without guns.
But gun was a strategy.
Yes I know. That is what has cost us our whole Kashmir.
Last couple of questions. Pardon me as I would be direct and blunt. Sheikh Abdullah a great and undisputed leader. But his grave is under constant guard. Something must be wrong here.
You go and see Pakistani founder Jinnah’s grave that has a guard as well.
That is ceremonial guard.
Sheikh sahib’s security is also ceremonial guard.
When you pass away, do you think you will have to be under constant security like your father.
Do you know where you are going to die? Do you know how you are going to die?
No I don’t know.
When you don’t know how and why, how the hell do you expect Farooq Abdullah to know what is going to happen. I don’t know and it just doesn’t matter when you die. You just go to God Almighty.
But where would you like to be buried.
I don’t know.
Interview Ref : KashmirAffairs