Habibullah Says Dialogue Only Way Out To Bring Peace In Kashmir
NEW DELHI: Blaming the Central government for messing up things in Kashmir, former IAS officer Wajajhat Habibullah, who has spent several years of his career in the state, has said the use of Army will not bring about peace in the Valley.
The solution of the problem required only winning the confidence of the youth through sincere dialogue with all stakeholders,” he said in a wide ranging interview over the situation in the Valley.
”The fact that three divisions of one of the finest armies of the world are deployed to fight militants whose number is not more than 300, as per government’s own figures, itself speaks about the efficacy of the present policy and strategy,” he said, adding that if this strategy was not working and was leading to huge loss of lives, then one should think of some other way.
Mr Habibullah was of the view that if the agitation against the killing of Burhan Wani would not have been suppressed with so much force, the situation would not have come to such a pass.
On a question about the use of Armed Forced Special Powers Act (AFSPA), he said, ”If we want to use the Army and if the Army feels the need of Armed Forced Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to deal with a certain situation, so let it have it, but here the question is whether the situation in Kashmir required deployment of the Army, and my view is that it was not needed at all” .
The former civil servant and also first chief information commissioner of India, who has served as Divisional Commissioner in the state, said that the local police was capable of dealing with the situation but the then governor Mr Jagmohan had no trust in the state police, because of which the Army had to be brought in but the experience has shown the total failure and disastrous consequences of such a step.
Mr Habibullah said he did not believe in the theory that of the Army was withdrawn, the state would go with Pakistan.
He is of the view that the more talks are delayed and force used in the state, the greater will be the radicalisation of the youth.
”Let me make it clear here that this radicalisation is not the root cause of the problem but rather it is the result of the failure to resolve the problem.”
The new generation has come to the conclusion that so far no result had come out of the efforts made to resolve the problem and they believe that the government of India is not interested in addressing their grievances and sort out their issues.
”They are saying that they don’t have a feeling of ‘azadi’ in India, and I think it is our failure that we have not been able to create this feeling.”
He said originally they wanted azadi from Maharaja’s rule and align with India. Sheikh Abdullah had told chairman of the UN Commission on India and Pakistan that that he wanted to remain with India.
”We have failed to convince the youth that they can’t have their azadi in the face of Pakistan, China, Russia and Afghanistan, and that they can have true azadi only by staying with a free and democratic country like India, and we have just tried to fix a political issues by the use of force,” the former IAS officer said.
He pointed out that the Army has launched Operation Sadbhavna and the civilian government was spending huge money but things have remained here they were.
Mr Habibullah said that by this he did not mean that force should not be used where required but along with the force sincere efforts should be made to engage the people.
He strongly advocated dialogue with all stakeholders, including Hurriyat. ” If Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee wanted talks with all of them and if Mr Advani, who was home minister in the Vajpayee government, was talking, and Dr Manmohan Singh took that forward, then I fail to understand what is problem with the Modi government?’
”If the Prime Minister was also swearing by ”Insaaniyat”, then he should listen to others,” he said.
Mr Habibullah said one could not justify not holding talks with kashmiri youth and leaders by blaming them for a negative response. ”First we have to convince them of the sincerity of our intentions.”
He said he had publicly appealed to Hurriyat for talks and was part of the unofficial delegation that went to the state to talk with the people and their leaders.
Welcoming the appointment of a new interlocutor by the Home Ministry, he hoped that something fruitful would come out, but added that some the Central ministers had given confusing signals about his role.
The Central government has been committing mistakes upon mistakes and adopting an approach which was lending support to the Kashmir youth’s feeling that the Centre had no sympathy with them and cared least about resolution of the issue, he said.
On a question about the recent controversy over the lodging of FIR in the Shopian filing incident, he said, ”If you lodge FIR against a person, it does not mean that the person is guilty but lodging of FIR is required under law if some people have been killed. In some cases in the past, the Army has itself conducted an inquiry.
Such attitude leads to further alienation of the people as it indicates to them that the system was not working in a just manner.
Replying to a question, he said that the current violence in Kashmir does not have much of outside elements. It is a home grown violence a creation of our own actions.
On a question regarding the problems in the working of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Kashmir, he said they had drawn up a common minimum programme and a major element of which was talks with all stake holders, but that had not happened.
And only now they had started realising that dialogue should be started, but concrete steps are yet to be seen, he added. “It is our responsibility to go to talks them, to tell them that they can have azadi only by staying with a democratic country like India,” Mr Habibullah said.
(The writer is a senior journalist.)