Countering criticism, Congress leader says he has seen files and recorded facts
Responding to criticism from the government and from his own party for comments in his book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle over Kashmiris favouring independence, Congress leader Saifuddin Soz says his words were taken out of context and calls for a dialogue in Kashmir
You have said in your book, quoting former Pakistan President Musharraf’s understanding, that Kashmiris would prefer independence. How do you explain your comments, given that even your party has distanced itself from you and your book?
General Musharraf told his own Generals and the political establishment after the loss at Kargil that he understood two things. One, that India was a much bigger country and Pakistan could never ever fight and win against it. And therefore, an initiative for peace, in which borders wouldn’t matter, came about, and it was a formula that worked for the Indian political establishment too. [Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayee ji had already created an atmosphere of hope and optimism by signing the Lahore declaration. I merely say in my book that Musharraf said Kashmiris are not for Pakistan. He said, if you give them a choice between Pakistan and independence, they would ask forAzaadi . And I say, that is not possible because of the circumstances. So, noAzaadi , but a settlement of dignified peace…
Why do you think the Vajpayee-Musharraf-Manmohan formula, as you call it, didn’t work?
Vajpayee’s greater problems came from his own colleagues, and from the intelligence agencies. Manmohan Singh picked up the threads from him, however, worked with General Musharraf, and was able to actually envision a future where you could have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. That situation could arise again if some adroitness is shown by the political leadership here. That is our only hope to stop the bloodshed. Otherwise, with people ready to die for a cause, there will be no end. Unless you reach out to them, sending the Army and security forces in large numbers will only have temporary impact.
You have also advocated talks with the Hurriyat as “representatives” of the people. Can you explain that, given that you have been an elected representative, a minister , while they have never stood for an election?
When you open a dialogue in the conditions of a dispute, and the dispute is about Kashmir, not Jammu and Ladakh mind you, then you always speak to the parties who don’t agree with you. [The government] needs to speak to the angry youth of the Kashmir Valley, and so it needs to speak to the Hurriyat who vocalise that anger. The fact that the Hurriyat leadership is able to call for shutdowns, means they have a following. I understand that despite being a mainstream politician. And I understand that despite being targeted…my house was burned, my daughter was kidnapped, I constantly need security. But to move forward, I have to hear other people too.
How do you respond to the Congress and BJP’s response to your book, condemning it?
They are critical because they have not read it. I wish they had taken the trouble to read it. I have written according to the facts. I have seen the files, and I can’t hide them. If the BJP and the RSS want to call me a traitor, I am prepared to have a dialogue and tell them that it is their narrative that is bringing down the idea of India, not mine. But we do need to sit together and find a way forward.
To return to the present, will Governor’s rule succeed in ending the violence, given that the State has not been able to hold even a by poll — the Anantnag parliamentary byelections — in the last year?
I think the Governor’s rule will bring a situation of comparative hope. [Mr. N.N. Vohra] is very experienced and will not accept extremism from one side or the other. And he knows that as he works he has the Constitution of India on one side and the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir on the other.
When you open a dialogue in conditions of dispute, then you always speak to parties who don’t agree with you