‘NC-PDP Are proxies, New Delhi Decides’

The Mirwaiz is worried at the Modi government’s refusal to engage with the Hurriyat and complains of the frequent house arrest he is subjected to.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the hereditary Kashmiri religious leader, leads one of the two key factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of both pro-Pakistan and pro-independence parties in Kashmir. Seen as relatively moderate, the Mirwaiz is worried at the Modi government’s refusal to engage with the Hurriyat and complains of the frequent house arrest he is subjected to.

You do not seem very enthusiastic about the forthcoming elections?

Elections should not be seen only in the context of voting. They are also an opportunity to do business, make some money. It was cruel to have elections after the floods. But it’s an exercise India must have. Elections will be used as a means to legitimise their control.

What’s wrong with that? Outside Srinagar, people want to vote.

It’s not just about voters. One party is keener to get candidates than voters. What will be the role of the army and the IB? When it comes to Kashmir, different rules apply to elections. The Indian state is harder on us than before. In early elections, the Hurriyat could campaign…. We are involved in flood relief and building houses, but week after week I am stopped from taking Friday prayers.

But Kashmiri parties are campaigning furiously, and even BJP is there this time.

Maybe it’s better that BJP comes to power here, then they can be open about their intent and not have to pretend like other Indian parties. The curtains are being raised on the truth. NC and PDP are just proxies in the Valley as all decisions are taken by New Delhi. The Kashmiri parties have the power of a municipal authority.

Do you see any difference between the BJP and the UPA?

So you are not worried about BJP and Modi.Draconian laws like AFSPA remain after 10 years of UPA. Chidambaram was home minister for five years, never did anything about AFSPA and now he says it should be gone. Now after the shooting and killing of two teenage boys, we hear that the Modi regime put pressure on the army to quickly accept their mistake.

If there is a Hindu CM how does it matter when the state assembly has no rights. Please remember that in Kashmir, people will carry BJP flags by day and by night will cover their faces and throw stones. It will not be easy to Indianise Kashmir.

How can Pakistan still be an ideal for separatists after the mess that country is in?

It’s a mistake to think that the Kashmir issue is alive only because of Pakistan. It’s an indigenous sentiment and movement. Currently militancy is down, but please be aware that Pervez Musharraf too must get credit for the downturn in the activities of Jaish and Lashkar. In Kashmir, however, we have a very consistent constituency. Mainstream parties also say they enter elections for development, but it is not a vote for India.

Modi responded strongly to the Pakistan ambassador talking to Hurriyat leaders.

When Nawaz Sharif came to India for Modi’s swearing-in, then too I was contacted by the Pakistan ambassador to come and meet him. I myself said why now when there is no structure for consultations and talks on the Kashmir issue. But the way Delhi is treating Hurriyat I ask them, do they want us to support Pakistan? Pakistan has a constituency in Kashmir because people feel that regardless of the conditions in Pakistan, they remember the cause of azadi for Kashmir.

How can Pakistan inspire anyone today?

India has gone to Mars, Pakistan to Taliban. But from the point of view of the Kashmiri, the Indian army is seen as inflicting suffering on our people.