August 28, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin

Part 1: 'Advani, Joshi are creating a hurdle in Vajpayee's way'

'If Musharraf<I>saab</I> says stop the activities, we will not agree'

The final segment of Chindu Sreedharan's exclusive interview with Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.

What support does Pakistan provide you?

We get only diplomatic, material, financial and moral support.

India says it supports you militarily also.

Definitely not! And that's our complaint. We have been demanding Pakistan is legally and morally bound to intervene militarily. Pakistan is party to the 1948 UN resolution... One party crushes and kills this movement by the dint of security forces and the other party is a mere spectator! But doesn't matter. If Pakistan stops all its support, doesn't matter. It will not affect our movement.

What do you say to the reports that Pakistan provides you arms and ammunition?

We can get them from anywhere. From the open market! We do get a bulk in India itself!

You buy arms in India?

We get a bulk in India itself. And it is very easy to get it inside rather than anywhere else. The time will come, we will show you. At this time I can expose the sources but it doesn't allow me to do so. There are agencies -- let's call NGOs -- which are dealing this arms deal on the international level in the Indian subcontinent. In this age, when the world has become a global village, nothing is impossible. We can get weapon of any calibre.

We Kashmiri mujahideen are now in a position to manufacture sophisticated remote-controlled devices that are not existing with the Indian army! And some such devices have been caught by the Indian authorities.

India says the Pakistan army gives you fire cover as your personnel cross over.

No cover fire. Definitely not! It is very easy.

You mean you don't need cover fire? It is very easy to cross over?

It is very easy. You step in. Because... Indian forces who are patrolling the border, they know the people coming are with arms. More sophisticated, more destructive arms. They are not in a position to stop us at all times. It is not possible. You may try to seal the border, but it is very impossible to seal the border. The border zigzag, [there's] dense forest, hills and mountains. There are hundreds of loopholes and thousands of tracks you can go and come. A person of this age (pointing at himself) has come a dozen times and gone a dozen times.

When was the last time you crossed over?

Accurate? This I cannot say.

But approximately?

Not less than a year.

And how deep had you gone?

[Laughs]. I roamed throughout the Valley. [Officials of the Indian intelligence agencies dismiss this.] Not from this side. There are so many ways to come. You can go from Jammu side to Valley. There is a 700-km border.

You entered from the Jammu side.

There is any possibility.

And you were in Srinagar?

Everywhere. Where it is need we go there.

What kind of hold does President Pervez Musharraf have on the militant outfits of the United Jihad Council?

'We Kashmiri mujahideen are now in a position to manufacture sophisticated remote-controlled devices that are not existing with the Indian army!'
No hold at all. Definitely not at all! All the groups that are fighting, they are independent ones, they are running on their own will. This organisations you see, this Laskhar, they have been involved in Afghanistan. They are 13-year-old organisation.

In Afghanistan, it was the ISI who controlled the fight against the Russian soldiers. Is it doing the same in your case?

ISI, [In Afghanistan it was] not only the ISI. There were Americans physically involved. But in Pakistan, control is in one's control. Control would mean if Musharraf says them to stop they will stop. But this is not the situation, I don't think.

You agree there is Pakistan support and influence. How much would you say is President Musharraf's influence with your organisation?

Not only Musharraf, even you can influence us. But if you talk in our favour. Let's suppose you say stop this activities, we will solve your problem. We will give a good response, but subject to the condition that we have confidence in what you are saying.

If Musharrafsaab says stop the activities, we will not agree. Definitely. I assure you. Because we want to see by our eyes that Kashmir issue is practically resolved on the ground. We do not believe in mere statements and treaties and agreements. India has been betraying us for the last 53 years. There has been dozens of commitments; none have been fulfilled so far.

Do you think President Musharraf would survive if he compromises on Kashmir in any way?

Any ruler in Pakistan who compromises on Kashmir will not survive. Any ruler. It may be Musharraf, it may be [former prime ministers] Benazir [Bhutto], it may be Nawaz [Sharif], any other ruler.

But negotiations mean give and take. He would need to give in somewhere to get something.

If we are given our right of self-determination, we will give up our armed struggle we have started 12 year before.

Besides a plebiscite, do you see any other option?

There is also any such solution which comes out of a trilogue acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The HM does not operate fidayeen [suicide] squads whereas other outfits do. Why is that?

It belongs to a strategy of an organisation. Do you know how many remote-controlled mine blasts have taken place during last two years in Kashmir? I think more than 250. All were done by HM. In fidayeen there is risk of much casualties. But an organisation having a device in its hand to destroy target from a two-mile away standpoint, why it needs to go and put itself in the risk? Why?

If you will go through the figures of casualties, you will see the casualties upon Indian forces, material and personnel, is several times more than which has been done in fidayeen. So we need not launch fidayeen machines. However, my other brothers and sister organisations have taken it up. They can adopt this way. We have no objection.

There have been reports of a rift between you and your deputy Abdul Majid Dhar.

'India has been betraying us for the last 53 years. There has been dozens of commitments; none have been fulfilled so far.'
This has been deliberately done to divide HM between base camp and field. I have come to know much more propaganda. There was news that [former defence minister] Mr [George] Fernandes had provided the security to Abdul Majid Dhar, Abdul Majid Dhar is under threat from Salahuddin. Such things, useless things, we have come to know. It's known as media disinformation.

Last July, when HM called for a ceasefire, it was Dhar who announced it. Not you. Your critics say the decision was his, and later you were forced to endorse it to avoid a split in the HM.

Definitely not. He could not do anything. Neither Salahuddin can do. Neither Salahuddin can remain for a second in his chair nor Abdul Majid Dhar without the consent of central command council. Neither Majid Dhar or Salahuddin!

Why was it then that Dhar called the ceasefire and not you?

Because Majid Dhar brother was and is in charge of operations in the field. And the ceasefire actually is a matter which deals with the operational field. We had a mutual consensus and we had a decision of the central command council of HM, but one thing or that at the last stage I was not here in this place. And brother Abdul Majid Dhar declared it unilaterally to give this gold opportunity for Indian authorities to make a breakthrough. But unfortunately India did not respond. And this central command council here once again took the matter into consideration and after threadbare discussion we called it back. We had despatched him from here with this purpose.

To declare the ceasefire?

For so many other things. This was also there.

That means months before the ceasefire was called, the HM had decided to do so?

Not so many months. Before the departure of Abdul Majid Dhar, it was decided.

And when did Dhar set out for the Valley?

I think it maybe in April or May... However Majid Dhar was of the time opinion ki this deadline should be extended up to 17th. He stressed. I told him it is better to call it off as early as possible. Because there is no any sign of positiveness or sincerity from the Indian side.

What was the reaction of the United Jihad Council when the HM announced the ceasefire? Reports say that many wanted you expelled from the UJC?

UJC reacted very harshly when HM announced unilateral ceasefire without taking former into confidence. [But] none of the UJC constituent wanted HM to be out of the forum because of its leading and decisive role in the ongoing freedom struggle.

There is a view the fight for Kashmir is no more indigenous, that it has been hijacked by external elements? You hear a lot about the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and the 'Osama bin Laden' factor now.

Definitely not, definitely not! If anybody who says the movement has got hijacked is absolutely wrong!

My brother, we have no connection with bin Laden. Laskhar-e-Tayiba has no connection with bin Laden. It is a canard. They are the people who belong to Pakistan. There's Jaish-e-Muhammad, they belong to Pakistan, there is Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, they belong to Pakistan. And there are also Kashmiri people in their rank and file of these. But they have no connection with bin Laden. This bin Laden has been made a dragon, good for nothing! What's bin Laden? I think he is the most helpless person who is in exile, spending his life in Afghanistan! It is the American media which has made him a dragon.

Indian authorities say it is 'foreign militants' who are now in the majority. Especially Afghans.

There can be somebody, two or three. Because, my brother, in an organisation having a relation and recruiting a considerable number of mujahideen, you can find somebody. Mistakenly, incidentally two, three, four, five people come and join. Because there are hundreds of thousand Afghani youths which are along with all the training, but they have no business to get engaged; they are free. They can go here, they can go there.... But none of our organisations are Afghan-based. Really. You cannot prove it.

Syed Salahuddin is said to have fallen out of Pakistan's favour, from the inner circle, since he endorsed the ceasefire last year and is being "isolated".

My brother, when I was I ever inside? What I was I still am. Nothing less, nothing more. I am not eager of any status or importance.

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