by Irtif Lone & Hakeem Irfan
Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat is staunchly pro-Pakistan, and supports Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. He heads Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference. In the past he has also been the head of Hurriyat Conference. Professor Bhat taught Persian before he was dismissed on charges of constituting threat to the state. Born in the northern Kashmir village of Botengo, 10 kms from Sopore, Bhat studied persian, economics and political science at Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, and then pursued his post graduation in Persian and law at Aligarh Muslim University.
When we entered the main gate of Prof. Bhat’s house, our eyes went straight to the man sitting under the warmth of October Sun. Amidst the scattered papers around, he offered us chairs to sit on. It felt like a University class room. Here are some excerpts of the interview with Prof. Bhat.
How do you see the transformation of a professor into a political leader?
I am the student of literature, student of political science as well. If you can relate literature with politics it’s great but I have absolutely no claim whatsoever for being great but God willingly I reached politics.
I was a student of Persian literature I have taught Persian for 22 long years. I was dismissed in 1986 from service, on a ground that I constitute a threat to the security of Union of India which is what it is!
I landed in politics as a dreamer. I am a different stuff.
If you ask about transformation, the transformation came about not by my self but from Allah’s will. I am now in politics, I head a party which in terms of history is the first political organization of the people of Jammu and Kashmir i.e. Muslim Conference.
Well I think I was a teacher holding classes of thirty to forty students. But now I am holding classes in the institution called life. Much bigger classes, I was a teacher then I am a teacher now. In my opinion I believe in indivisibility of life. You cannot compartmentalize life in to politics, economics or other issues separately. I take life as a one single homogenous unit.
You have not been able to keep the balance between a professor and a leader? Something which would have helped you interact more with the youth?
Well I under stand your question¦ I love youth, I love elderly people as well, and I don’t draw lines. I know there is a subtle difference between youth and elderly persons, no doubt about it. Elderly persons are generally speaking motivated by reason. While as youth is generally swayed by emotion, passion and in many cases by euphoria only. When you are in a class, you deal with a disciplined lot of boys. But when you are outside the class dealing with youth, you choose to be demonstrated by the youth. So therefore this subtle line has to be drawn. By and large I think there is no need to draw lines. I love mingling with both. But there are some temperamental attitudes that speak volumes of your effort to comingle with the people. Yes I agree with you I should have been more with youth than with any other set of people but while you are in politics it is not only youth which matters in politics, it is the age as well, it is also the people who fall between age and youth. You have to deal with all sorts of people. In my opinion it is some thing very difficult to belong to just one section of people.
Do you think the people of Kashmir are fighting one dimensional war against occupation?
Well I already said I believe in the totality of life, you cannot ignore any aspect of life. You have to address life with all its dimensions and aspects. Economical, Sociological, Political, Psychological and may be historical. If you go a step further with yet another dimension which is globalization. You cannot ignore any aspect. You have to address all the aspects of individual and collective life. You have to address the entire organism called life. We are born with multi-dimensions, with politics which means to lead an orderly life, with economics and social obligations. Every thing is interwoven. It always comes as a package with no individual existence.
Last few months have infused new life to ongoing struggle. How do you analyze the situation?
I am not an analyst; I am just an eye witness. Eye witness to people’s glances, to their shrugs, to their chance remarks, which in my opinion are more revealing than many articles you produce in your news-papers, books that writers produce on the subject of Kashmir. What do these glances, these shrugs and chance remarks suggest. I think if you can interpret these, you reach the bottom. You cry hear the cry of the soul of Kashmir. The sentiment for freedom is rooted deep into the soul of Kashmir. You have to feel the pulse, hear the beat, if you can do it, you can interpret it fairly properly, fairly effectively and that is what is needed to be done.
As an eye witness I give you the areas where I think we need to focus our attention:
- The sentiment is alive and kicking. The people who were living in the false impression that the sentiment was marginalized, was suppressed for a period of time, was silenced, was lulled to sleep for another period of time. They should now realize that they cannot kill the sentiment. Sentiment has to be addressed.
- The youth born amidst the roar of gun was in the front line. So the sentiment has been transferred from elderly to young generation. It is a psychological transfer of sentiment from one generation to other is a huge development in terms of the tomorrow politics. Youth constitutes my tomorrow. My tomorrow tells me even if you die professor with your sentiment without achieving anything, don’t be dismayed; the sentiment has gone to the youth who will pursue it. This tomorrow’s sentiment will mean a huge problem for India.
- The people of Valley are caught in conflicting situation. Look at the political attitude of Kashmiris. Indian hegemony is not acceptable to them but they (Kashmiris) recognize that they are living in India. Sometimes you see them up in arms. Sometimes raising slogans vociferously and sometimes you see him beset with absolutely no political turmoil. This is a conflict. But they adjust to the situation. But this adjustment by Kashmiris is misconstrued as normalization in New Delhi and probably by Islamabad as well.
- Now the point that has happened for the first time. Political leadership in New Delhi, Islamabad, and Srinagar and even in Muzaffarabad will have to consider this with more seriousness. It is the divide. The divide between Jammu and Kashmir.
The protest was in essence peaceful and democratic. The noise was rhythmic. People heard the noise not only at the global level but at the sub continental level as well. It was heard by the intellectuals of India who came and supported the noise.
A few things happened that the leadership has to consider:
Was the political direction available from the leaders? From myself I concede, No.
Was the target set? I concede, No and the leadership had no time either to think in terms of providing a direction or fixing a target. That is where I feel a bit shade dismayed; otherwise it was such a wonderful manifestation of people’s anger against the political hegemony.
Divide between Jammu and Kashmir happened first time in the political history with reference to the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. The people rose in my opinion never against the transfer of land, but they got an opportunity and they seized it, grabbed it and raised slogans they have been raising from last 60 years, We want freedom. They never said we want land. When the order was revoked by the government people celebrated the occasion with the sense of victory. This didn’t go well with the people in Jammu and they reacted unnecessarily and unimaginatively. They implemented economic blockade which in terms of international law is an act of war. The people in Kashmir gave a befitting reply. If you choose to live separately in few districts which comprises of Non-Muslim population; go ahead do it, we have no problems. But now that you have implemented economic blockade, we have to live, we need an alternative route; we said Muzaffarabad Chalo, We needed an alternative market, we said; Hamari Mandi Rawalpindi.
We said our people are not safe in Jammu, they beat our drivers, even kill some. It is not respectable to any self respecting community. We therefore said well, No office move will be allowed. We suspect that the officers and their families will be in problem. We supported the traders of Kashmir. When I say we; I mean All Parties Hurriyat Conference APHC (M). This is APHC program.
Who produced these ideas is anybodys guess? Within or outside APHC. No traditional politics. It was a revolutionary agenda which we unfortunately could not pursue. The entire agenda was high jacked. For reasons which hardly need any reference. But it happened.
The idea behind was that people should rise on there own legs and ensure economic self reliance. This was the most important aspect of political agenda which the APHC considered and gave out in a press conference. We had suggested let us agitate and say look if you do this, we will do that. We just wanted to agitate without announcing any dates. We will not afford an opportunity to the Indians to beat us and yet we would move ahead with the program and agitate as much as we can peacefully and profitably as well.
Only APHC has many front running leaders, but they took a back seat after Jammu and Kashmir Co-Ordination Committee was formed. Why?
Well you will have to a draw line. A committee is not a party. I don’t want to get involved into semantics now. But what we need to know is committee is generally assigned a specific job to accomplish. When the purpose is fulfilled the committee is dissolved. The Coordination Committee coordinated an effort to ensure an alternative route. We saw earlier during the land transfer Action Committee against Land Transfer (ACALT) after the revoke of order was dissolved later.
As far as Co-Ordination committee is concerned it came to streamline the effort with reference to the sentiment of people. The members form the three main political parties, Hurriyat (M), Hurriyat (G), and JKLF. Each of them nominated their members for the committee.
I as an individual had no direct or indirect involvement in the program except that to discuss with the key members the modalities to be considered or to be followed or to be worked out.
Its no where in the world that entire leadership comes out except that if there is a difference in opinion.
In politics there are people who you may never see at all but you cannot dismiss them as just nobody. They may be probably more important than the entire leadership.
For example you cannot say Allama Iqbal was not a politician. He was the architect of Pakistan, ideologically. He was never in the processions but then you cannot dismiss him as nobody. If you hold such an opinion I doubt your bonafide.
Why is Hurriyat (M) always ready for talks, even when Prime Minister of India says you failed to get into specifics?
Well APHC I belong to has to be viewed from a different angle, we do not put blinkers on our heads. We try to see in every direction. I cannot claim to be perfect, many a times I look inwards as well. We sometimes go backwards as well as it is politics. When I say to assess APHC from different angle it means we represent two significant elements which need to understand:
Sentiment, if you don’t address the sentiment we are not doing justice to our conscience. We are not doing our duty we owe to our people and conscience, but while representing the sentiment, while respecting the sentiment we have to be alive to the somber political changes sweeping across. If you ride a blind horse, the horse will stumble, you will fall and break. So you need to have a horse with eyes and a rider holding reins firmly and know the ups and downs of the path he pursues and knows the destination. You have to ride the tide, tame the tide, work out a strategy, if you don’t do that, the tide of change might swallow you deep down.
Hurriyat (M) along with the sentiment represents more significantly the change, the dynamics of the change sweeping across. We understand that the war between India and Pakistan is inconceivable. India is a nuclear country and so is Pakistan. If a confrontation happens, it will be a total disaster. So no Military solution is available for the Kashmir Dispute.
Let me go on record, not afraid of people who talk on phone and say, Kill Professor. As far as the armed struggle is concerned we can’t now as the consequence of change that is sweeping across garner support for it at the global level.
You don’t have to close doors for dialogue. Therefore if the armed struggle cannot be supported by the international community, we will have tremendous problems in this field as well. Next, alternative to be looked for is the dialogue. And if you refuse talking that would mean you are throwing dust unto your own eyes. No sane person can do it.
You know Sajjad Lone produced a book, how does the Prime Minister of India say that they had no ideas? And I know I also produced an Idea. The Prime Minister of India knows what the idea was about. But yes this is true that as Hurriyat we did not do it in black and white. But we did produce an idea.
An opinion has emerged that negotiation at this time would mean give and take, which would eventually lead to National Conferences Autonomy or PDP’s Self Rule but no way to Hurriyat’s right to self determination. How do you answer them?
If you loose across the table you loose for ever, if you loose in the battlefield you don’t necessarily loose the war. But your argument is perhaps which I am the last man to buy. If you know the art, art of talking, art of putting your point of view across to your opponent you will never loose the war across table. But you go with the premises that you would loose it that is unfortunate. You should go to the table with determination that you win it across the table. But for that you need to have deeper understanding of the politics of dynamics of change, of strategies of parties involved, powers involved that are around the world, America, China, India and Pakistan. And therefore while doing it; I understand if you don’t measure your size you again will loose. The moment you do it, you will have a proper strategy and once you have a proper strategy, you will never loose.
With all the experience’s you have had with India, do you think that they are serious and sincere this time round?
I give you few things which you need to understand, it’s not a sentimental exercise that you should undertake or I should undertake. We have to be guided by the realities and if we are not guided by realities we are doomed. History is what it is, ruthless, and if you cannot catch the under current of history you are gone, gone for good.
Sincerity and politics may or may not go together. But remember, India has certain problems to address
- India is economically growing. There is an imperceptible economic consensus evolving in India. The consensus is that we capture international market. To capture international market you need to ensure peace and stability at home. You can never ensure peace and stability at home unless you resolve the dispute.
I am guided by the realities. This is being pragmatic. I may love to draw lines on running waters but I understand I may never come up with pictures. So I choose to come up with pictures. The other people are other people. Hell are the other people says Sarte. But remember my dear friends you have to be guided by the realities of life, realities of politics. India has to ensure peace and stability at home, with a view to capture international market. There is a scramble for international market, all around. India is one of the players like China is, like European Union is, like America is. And there are growing economies in South East Asia like Malaysia, Singapore. They are small countries but growing economies. So therefore while thinking in terms of capturing international market, you have to ensure peace and stability at home. And that is not possible until Kashmir Issue is resolved.
- India seeks a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council. For that your record has to be spotless. Kashmir is on the Security Council Agenda as a dispute. Security council has passed many resolutions, not a single resolution was ever implemented practically in J&K, as a consequence of either intransigence demonstrated by India in word, in deed or may be some weakness shown by Pakistan. I don’t want to discuss this, but you have to have a clear record. To produce that record, India will have to address Kashmir. And I personally feel there is a realization not only in Islamabad but in Delhi too that yes, we can’t afford to live in tension for all times to come. The tension has to go and it will go away when we talk.
That is the change, we do the talking and India is doing talking. India is engaged in a political exercise, diplomatic exercise involving not only Pakistan but others as well. We also take to talking. And therefore we can say yes, there is a realization that we have to get out of this tension. We have to achieve our objectives.
The cease fire call by India, by Pakistan along the LOC holds it happened it was a change. Contact between the people it happened, it was a change. A change in India, Pakistan alone couldn’t do it. Ceasefire can hold only when both the parties agree. Roads can open when both the parties agree to it. People to people contact, leadership contact, and this can only happen when both the parties agree. This is a change, now when you go to Azad Kashmir you don’t need a visa. This was a big huge shift in the policy of India. But I don’t know the intention deep into the political conscience of Indian leadership. I am yet to get hold of an instrument which can measure whether the intentions are deep or on the surface. I only know that something has happened more things may follow if good sense prevails. But if the good sense doesn’t prevail, we are gone, we are finished. So it’s not the game of intentions, it’s the game of strategy. If you want to live by intentions well do it, go ahead. I have no problem, I will never object to it.
If you can get me what I wish to get, what the people have laid their lives for, I have no problem, get it. I will raise my hand probably both to salute you. Well done Mr. A, you got it with frenzy, hats off to you, my head off to you. But remember, they say, Where reason doesn’t guide no peace can rule the day.
Was this frenzy and reason a dispute of Hurriyat split in 2002?
No, well the split in Hurriyat is to be understood a shade deeply, a shade sharply. The dialogue was to happen between India and Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani tacticians understand that Kashmiris are the primary party to dispute. If they produce a coherent political point of view it would be difficult for us to move ahead. That’s how I look at it. So the split happened.
The split happened because when you cease to think independently; when you cease to move independently you break. Therefore Hurriyat broke. Those of us who did not cease to think and act independently never broke. But there are efforts even today, that breaks happen and the paths are smoothened for bigger people to move ahead.
Is there any good news regarding this issue forthcoming?
As far as I am concerned I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist. I trust the sane elements in India, Pakistan and Kashmir will join heads together and hammer out an acceptable, honorable and a durable solution to Kashmir. Because the future of South Asia as a region is inescapably linked with the solution of Kashmir
What does Prof Abdul Gani Bhat as a Professor think to be a viable solution to Kashmir?
Well I am still a supporter of Pakistan, if two boxes India and Pakistan are placed in front of me, I will vote for Pakistan. If three boxes India, Pakistan or Independence are placed in front of me I will still vote for Pakistan. This is being Pakistani.
I wish Pakistan a very happy, brilliant and bright future. This is being Pakistani. I consider Pakistan as a fortress of Islam. I don’t want any harm to come to Pakistan. This is being Pakistani. I am not a mad Pakistani; I am not a blind Pakistani. I don’t call Pakistani’s by names. I don’t call them agents of India. There are people who say we are Pakistani’s but they call Pakistan’s president as agent of India. I don’t do it. There are people who say we are Pakistani’s but they denigrate the Institution of Presidency in Pakistan and tell people, look I give you a happy tiding when the general is gone. I don’t do it. I love General Pervez Musharraf, no doubt about that. he gave us a way out in resolving permanently the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. His four points: Self Governance, Demilitarization, Irrelevant Borders and Joint Management. And if we could implement all these four points we would reach a stage where permanent settlement could be worked out. This was the most effective diplomatic exercise undertaken by the president of Pakistan. I will never denigrate him or his institution
How does a staunch Pakistani supporter then react to Zardari’s Statement?
Zardari’s Statement was made and withdrawn and where statements are made and withdrawn; I don’t waste my breath.
How do you react to the coming elections?
Election is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. Election or no election, it makes absolutely no difference. Even the United Nations Security Council resolution states explicitly that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir will not affect the future dispensation of Jammu and Kashmir in any case. It’s an administrative exercise, not a political exercise in the sense that future of Kashmir is determined. Therefore, election or no election, it’s not a problem.
Does that mean Hurriyat (M) is not planning any anti-election rally?
No, I never said that. I said I as an individual. I told you, I am different.
Will we ever see Hurriyat Conference fighting elections?
In politics it is hazardous you make guesses but I believe if Kashmir dispute is resolved pro freedom leadership will fight elections. Change is change less, I am optimist and problem has to be resolved. But people’s choice matters.