August 4, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Salim Hashmi

'Our struggle is for freedom. We want freedom. And our struggle will continue'

Talking to Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Salim Hashmi was not easy. The Hizb has an office at Islamabad with only one constantly busy phone. Both Hizb leader Syed Salahudin and Hashmi are constantly monitoring developments in the valley from their office at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, after the Indian government responded to its offer of talks and a cease-fire.

Even as its emissary Fazal Haque Qureshi and Hizb commanders met with Home Secretary Kamal Pande in Srinagar on Thursday, Hashmi spoke over the telephone to Assistant Editor Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

How do you assess the talks between the government and your representatives?

Our information is they discussed how the violence in Kashmir will be stopped, and the ceasefire. The meeting was incomplete and we will have further talks in a day or two. However, there has been no final decision.

When is the next meeting?

We don't know. But we have come to know there is a meeting on Friday with our representatives, army officers and I think Kamal Pande, the home secretary.

Are you happy with the meeting?

Our concern is how to stop the violence in Kashmir and how we go about it. At this moment, we are only interested in this.

You state that you want to end the violence. But 100 people, including Amarnath Yatra pilgrims, were killed on Tuesday. Who is responsible for this?

About the Yatris, we cannot comment because we don't know who did it. But what happened was completely inhuman. We have condemned this incident, no matter whoever has done it.

But you are talking peace on one hand, and on the other side 100 people have died.

I repeat that whoever has done it, it is a suspicious killing. And there is lot of suspicion in this. We condemn this because Islam does not permit us to do this.

Whose hand do you suspect in the killings?

We don't know. We have constituted a committee who will look into these killings.

The United Jehad Council has sacked Hizb from the organisation.

We are talking to them. And by the way, our cadres have control over 80 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the biggest militant organisation of J&K state.

How many volunteers do you have?

That I cannot tell you.

Why are you suddenly concerned about peace?

India has told Western countries that the Kashmiri Mujahideen only want to solve the Kashmir problem by the gun. However, we are ready to come to the table for talks. So not only India, but the whole world must know who is doing what.

What are your demands?

Our demand is that the Kashmir problem should be solved.

Your demand has always been for azaadi, freedom. Will you compromise now?

We are trying for that only.

Do you want India to give Kashmir freedom?

We are struggling for the same reason.

Is there anything else besides freedom on your agenda?

If India comes to the table, then there can be some other developments.

India has not involved Pakistan in the talks. How do you view this?

We are waiting till August 8. That is our deadline.

What do you want done by then?

We want a clear answer from India about our demands.

But you want freedom. If India does not give you freedom, what will you do?

We will start our struggle once again.

If India does not give you freedom, what will you discuss?

Janaab, our struggle is for freedom. We want freedom. And our struggle will continue.

India says the talks must take place within the framework of the Constitution.

No, the talks are not possible within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

Why is it not possible?

We have struggled for 13 years, janaab. And 70,000 people have died. Thousands of homes have been ruined. The Kashmiri people have made a lot of sacrifices. So there is no question of talks within the framework of the Constitution.

Don't you believe in India's democratic system?

We have seen India's democracy in the 1987 election. We remember that very much.

How long will the bloodshed continue?

Till India wants the bloodshed, this will continue. We have initiated a dialogue for peace, not India.

The All Party Hurriyat Conference is not participating in the talks.

The Hurriyat is a political forum.

Did you speak to the Hurriyat before negotiating with India?

As per as our supreme commander's (Syed Salahudin) statement, there had been no talks with the Hurriyat before we spoke to India.

Pakistan has not supported your talks with India.

This movement is not being run by Pakistan, but by Kashmiris.

But you are now in Pakistan.

We are not in Pakistan, but in our own territory of Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Our Kashmiri brothers are over here.

Is Pakistan in favour of talks with India?

Pakistan also favours talks with India on Kashmir.

But Pakistan is supporting the militancy.

(Angrily) Who says Pakistan is supporting militancy?

Then, who killed these 100 people?

That's what I am telling you. These killings are a little suspicious and there has to be a proper inquiry into it.

Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah wants autonomy for the state. What is the Hizbul's stance on autonomy?

We have got nothing to do with it.

What is your brief to your negotiator, Fazal Haque Qureshi?

The brief to him is how to control the bloodshed and violence. We will talk further if India gives a positive response.

What positive response do you expect from India?

That there will be a solution to our problem. We can only say that after we meet them across the table.

If India does not involve Pakistan, what will be your reaction?

We have issued a statement that we can go back to our struggle. India will be responsible for that.

Is it not true that the Hizb has lost its hold over the militancy, and that is why you are talking of peace?

No sir, this is not true. Even armyman Mr Mukherjee has stated it is not correct to say that the Mujahideen have been weakened.

You have been fighting a war for nearly 12 years, and there has been no result.

Inshallah, the results will surely come. The Soviet Union was also a superpower; you see what has happened to them today.

Pakistan also has a part of Kashmir. Why don't you demand that area from Pakistan?

That is why we say that the talks should be from all sides.

Why don't you create trouble in POK? There you keep quiet and only make noises about Kashmir.

Pakistan is always ready for talks.

Do you think Pakistan will leave POK, the day you ask for it?

I don't say they will leave Kashmir. But they will come to the table, definitely support Kashmiris and accept Kashmiri demands.

Why have you lost faith in India?

You can ask that question to Indian Muslims also.

This is not a question of Indian Muslims. Your struggle for independence is not a struggle for Indian Muslims.

Yes, that is true. It is a Kashmiri's people's war. Nehruji stated that India would give the right of self determination to the Kashmiri people.

Are you getting support from other militant organisations for the talks with India?

We are getting hints from them and they will support us in the talks.

It is being said those who killed hundred people on Tuesday are from the Lashkar-e-Taiyba. Is it true?

Inshallah, we will get a report on those killings this week. Only then can we talk freely on this. It has still not been established that Lashkar was behind this killing.

How do you feel after fighting for so many years?

We are trying to stop that now. I hope India understands our problem and they will solve it.


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