Interview: Sayyed Ali Gilani, Tehrik-e Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir
- Sayyed Ali Gilani, formerly with the Jamaat-e Islami
of Jammu and Kashmir, is a veteran Kashmiri
politician. Presently, he heads the Tehrik-e
Hurriyat-e Jammu Kashmir. In this interview with
Yoginder Sikand, he talks about his views on the
Kashmir conflict and its possible solution.
Q: In your writings, and in those of other similar
Islamist ideologues, the Kashmir conflict is often
described as a war between Islam and disbelief. Do
you really think it is so? Is it not a political
struggle or a nationalist struggle, actually?
A: The Kashmir dispute is a fall-out of the Partition
of India. The Muslim-majority parts of British India
became Pakistan, and the Hindu-majority regions became
the Dominion of India. There were, at that time, some
575 princely states in India under indirect British
rule. Lord Mountbatten gave them the choice of joining
either India and Pakistan, and instructed that their
choice must be guided by the religious composition of
their populace as well as by the borders they might
share with either India or Pakistan.
On this basis, almost all the princely states opted
for either India or Pakistan. There were, however,
three exceptions to this. Hyderabad, a Hindu-majority
state with a Muslim ruler, opted for independence, but
India argued against this on the grounds that the
state had a Hindu majority, and so ordered the Police
Action to incorporate the state into the Indian
Dominion. Junagadh, another Hindu-majority state with
a Muslim ruler, opted for Pakistan, but India
over-ruled this decision, again on account of the
states Hindu majority, and annexed it. If India had
adopted the same principle in the case of Jammu and
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state with a Hindu ruler,
there would have been no conflict over Kashmir. After
all, more than 85% of the population of the state at
that time were Muslims; the major rivers in the state
flowed into Pakistan; the state shared a border of
over 750 kilometres with Pakistan; the only motorable
road connecting Kashmir with the outside world
throughout the year passed from Srinagar to
Rawalpindi; and the majority of the people of the
state had cultural and historical ties with the people
However, over-ruling these factors, which would have
made Jammu and Kashmir a natural part of Pakistan, in
October 1947 the Indian Army entered the state in the
guise of flushing out the Pathan tribesmen, who had
crossed into Kashmir in the wake of large-scale
killings of Muslims in Rajouri and Poonch. Using this
incursion an excuse, Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir,
engineered the intrusion of Indian forces. The British
scholar Alistair Lamb says that the so-called
Instrument of Accession was itself fraudulent and that
Hari Singh did not even sign it.
Thereafter, India itself took the issue of Kashmir to
the Untied Nations. The UN passed some eighteen
resolutions related to Kashmir, recognizing the status
of the state as disputed and calling for a resolution
of the conflict based on the will of the people of the
state, which the first Indian Prime Minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru, himself also publicly promised. Now,
all that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are saying is
that India should live up to this promise that it made
of holding a plebiscite in accordance with the UN
resolutions. So, this is the basic issue.
Q: So, arent you here saying that the conflict is
essentially political, not religious?
A: For a Muslim, no action is permissible which is
against Islam. How can we say that the sacrifices that
the Muslims of Kashmir make, the tortures that they
suffer and the martyrdom that they meet have nothing
to do with Islam, and that they wont be rewarded by
God for this? In this sense, it is a religious issue
also. Islam teaches that Muslims must follow the
guidance of Islam in every action of theirsnot just
in prayers but also in matters such as war and peace,
trade, international relations and so on, because
Islam is a complete way of life. If a true Muslim
participates in any struggle, it is for the sake of
Islam. So, how can you say that the Kashmir conflict
has nothing to do with religion?
Q: This might be true in theory, but surely many
Kashmiris who are involved in the movement might be
motivated by other factors, including for economic and
political reasons, or also due to a commitment to
Kashmiri nationalism, as distinct from Islam?
A: I agree that there may be various reasons why
different people participate in the movement. Yes,
there can be many who do not adopt the guidance of
Islam in this regard. They might champion secular
democracy and irreligiousness. Their sacrifices might
be motivated by nationalism or ethnicity, rather than
Islam. They might have no problem with the system of
governance in India, their opposition to Indian rule
being simply because of the brutalities of Indian
occupation. Of course, one cannot say that all
Kashmiri Muslims think alike. But I am speaking from
the point of view of a practicing Muslim, whoa accepts
Islam as a complete way of life. For such
self-conscious Kashmiri Muslims, it is undoubtedly a
religious issue and their sacrifices are for the sake
of the faith.
Q: Maulana Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e
Islami, who is a major source of inspiration for you,
opposed the creation of Pakistan. So, then, why is
that that you have consistently been advocating
Kashmirs union with Pakistan?
A: You are wrong here. Maulana Maududi was not opposed
to the creation of Pakistan and to the two nation
theory. What he was opposed to was the practice of the
Muslim League leaders, who were leading the movement
for Pakistan. He told them that they talked of the
two-nation theory and Islam, but were not serious
about establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan. They
were not preparing the activists of the League for an
Islamic state. Maulana Maududi wanted Pakistan to be
an Islamic state, and this was the grounds for his
opposition to the Muslim League. But he, like the
League, supported the two-nation theory. In fact,
the League did not have any theoretical justification
for its two nation theory until this was provided by
Maulana Maududi through his copious writings.
Q: But do you really see Indian Hindus and Muslims as
two separate nations? After all, they share so much
A: They are totally separate nations. There is no
doubt at all about this. Muslims believe in just one
God, but Hindus have crores of gods.
Q: But the Prophet Muhammad, in his treaty with the
Jews and other non-Muslims of Medina, described the
denizens of Medina as members of one nation. The
leader of the Jamiat ul-Ulema-i Hind and a leading
Deobandi scholar, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, even
wrote a book to argue against the Leagues two
nation theory, stressing a composite Indian
nationalism that embraced all the people of India. So,
how can the Muslims and Hindus of one country be
considered separate nations even by Islamic
A: Islam lays down that in an Islamic system (nizam),
all non-Muslims, including even atheists, will get
equality, justice, security of life and property and
freedom of faith. Maulana Madanis arguments were
critiqued by Maulana Maududi.
Q: In your prison memoirs, Rudad-e Qafs, you write
that It is as difficult for a Muslim to live in a
non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a
desert. But how can this be so? After all, the
pioneers of Islam in India and in Kashmir itself,
mainly Sufi saints, lived and preached in a society in
which Muslims were a very small minority.
A: I meant to say this in a particular sense. Islam,
as I said, is a complete way of life. No other path is
acceptable to God. So, in the absence of an Islamic
polity, it is difficult for Muslims to lead their
lives entirely in accordance with the rules of Islam,
which apply to social affairs as much as they do to
personal affairs. For instance, Muslims in Kashmir
under Indian rule live in a system where alcohol,
interest and immorality are rife, so how can we lead
our lives completely in accordance with Islam? Of
course, Muslim minorities are Muslims, too, but their
duty must be to work to establish an Islamic
dispensation in the lands where they live so that they
can lead their lives fully in accordance with Islam
and its laws. Missionary work to spread Islam is as
much of a duty as is praying and giving alms to the
Now, as for your question about those Sufis who lived
and worked in societies where Muslims were in a
minoritythey may have been pious people, but we take
as our only model the Prophet Muhammad.
Q: But, surely, no one is forced to drink alcohol,
deal in interest or act immorally in Kashmir?
A: True, but these things automatically spread since
they are allowed by the present un-Islamic system. So
that is why you see the degeneration of our culture
and values happening on such a large scale.
Q: You mentioned about preaching Islam being a
principal duty of all Muslims. But, surely, for this
you need a climate of peace, not of active hostility,
as in Kashmir today?
A: Absolutely. I agree with you entirely. No one can
deny this. We need to have good relations with people
of other communities. Only then can we communicate the
message of Islam to them. But if one side continues to
oppress the other and heap injustices and says that
this should be considered as peace, how can it be
accepted? If, for instance, Narendra Modi says that
what happened [with the Muslims] in Gujarat represents
peace, how can it be? If India stations lakhs of
troops in Kashmir and says this is for establishing
peace, how can it be, because these troops themselves
are disturbing the peace?
Q: You, and other Islamist ideologues such as
yourself, have consistently been advocating an Islamic
state, seeing this as an indispensable Islamic duty.
To your mind, which is the best functioning Islamic
state in the world today?
A: The world-wide Muslim community (ummah) is today in
such a sorry state that there is no Islamic state
anywhere in the real sense. Saudi Arabia is described
as an Islamic state, but it is run by a monarchy, and
monarchy has no sanction in Islam. If Muslim
countries, including those that claim to be Islamic,
were truly Islamic states they would never have been
enslaved to America, as is the case today. They all
support Americas policies and adopt its dictates.
They are completely, on all accounts, dependent on
America. They cannot even defend themselves. They have
to rely on America and Europe to do this. They keep
their money in American banks. We say that they should
use their wealth to empower themselves and get out of
Americas clutches and convert themselves into genuine
Q: In the wake of the attacks of 11 September, 2001,
how do you see the impact of American pressure on Arab
states, such as Saudi Arabia, to change their position
on Islamist movements?
A: The events of September 2001 have caused most
Muslim states to change their policies and toe
Americas line even more closely. You can see this
happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only Muslim
country that refuses to cave under American pressure
Q: And now America is seeking an excuse to attack
A: Yes. America is trying to stoke Shia-Sunni
rivalries in order to undermine Iran. It is trying all
other such weapons, dividing the Muslims on the basis
of sect, nationality, race and ethnicity against each
other so as to weaken them. And the leaders of most
Muslim countries are now playing the role of agents of
the USA, be they Karzai in Afghanistan, Musharraf in
Pakistan, Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine or the Saudi
Take the case of Pakistan. Some months ago, American
forces bombed a village in the countrys North-West
Frontier Province, as a result of which some eighty
people were martyred, including around thirty
religious scholars. Pakistans present rulers are so
beholden to America that at first they did not
acknowledge that the Americans were behind the attack.
Only later, under pressure, were they forced to admit
this. Likewise, the Lal Masjid fiasco in Islamabad was
stage-managed in order to please the Americans. See
whats happening in Waziristan, the Frontier Province
and Baluchistan. A climate is being deliberately
created in those parts of Pakistan to justify American
attacks and bombings in the name of flushing out
militants, and Musharraf and Karazi are key players in
Q: If Pakistan is now so pro-American, acting against
its own people, and if it is not an Islamic state,
then why have you been advocating Kashmirs union with
A: As I said earlier, the Muslim League claimed that
Pakistan was got in the name of Islam, but it did not
give its cadre training to establish an Islamic state
there. Because of this, the influence of the Army and
the countrys Westernised leadership, Pakistan failed
to become an Islamic state. But it was meant to
become such a state, which is something that we want.
So, if the people of Jammu and Kashmir were given the
right to decide between India and Pakistan, the
majority, I think, would prefer the former.
Yes, there are weaknesses in Pakistan, but these can
be addressed. India has a secular system, which we
can, under no condition, accept. Because of the
oppression that we have been suffering under Indian
rule for the last sixty years, how can we opt for
India? In just a few weeks, in late 1947, some five
lakh Muslims were killed by Dogra forces and Hindu
chauvinists in Jammu. In the last seventeen years,
over one lakh Kashmiri Muslims, mainly innocent
civilians, have been killed. So many localities have
been burned down, women raped and men rendered
missing. After such brutal experiences, only a blind
person would opt in favour of India.
Q: Many Kashmiri Muslims would rather be independent
than join India or Pakistan. Do you agree?
A: The UN resolutions provide for only two options:
joining India or Pakistan, and if this rule is
followed then the majority would, I think, opt for
Pakistan. However, if the three parties to the
disputePakistan, India and the people of Jammu and
Kashmircome to a consensus on an independent Jammu
and Kashmir, then, as I have repeatedly said, we will
accept that formula also.
Q: In some of your writings you have argued against
Kashmir being an independent state, even claiming that
this is an Indian ploy. Can you elaborate?
A: This is true. It is an Indian ploy, because India
does not want to see Pakistan strengthened, which it
would be if Jammu and Kashmir joins Pakistan. The
slogan of Azadi (Independence) is aimed at weakening
Pakistan. Independence would result in a territory
that would have been a natural part of Pakistan being
taken away from it. But then, compared to staying with
India, independence is a lesser evil.
Q: Many Kashmiris, seeing the current political and
economic troubles in Pakistan, might say that they
would prefer to be independent.
A: If we get independence, we will accept it.
Q: What if most people of Jammu and Kashmir wish to
live in a secular or democratic set-up, and not a
Taliban-style Islamic state?
A: We dont want to bring Taliban-type Islam, but the
real Islam of the Quran and the Practice (Sunnah) of
Q: But the Taliban argued that their state was in
accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah.
A: To claim something is different from acting on that
claim. For instance, while Islam makes it a duty for
every Muslim male and female to acquire education, as
soon as the Taliban came to power they banned girls
education. What they should have done, instead, was to
set up separate schools for girls. So, like this,
there are many issues on which we can differ. The
Islamic state that we would like to establish in Jammu
and Kashmir would be one based on the understanding
that all of humanity are children of the same primal
parents, Adam and Eve. They will all be treated
equally and justly. There shall be no discrimination
based on religion. After all, the Prophet once
remarked that all creatures are of the family of God
and that the best is he who treats members of Gods
familywhich obviously includes non-Muslims, tooin
the best way
Q: You advocate Kashmirs accession to Pakistan, but
today minority nationalities in Pakistan, such as the
Baluchis and the Sindhis, suffering under Punjabi
domination, are struggling for independence. Might not
the same thing happen to the Kashmiris if the state
were to join Pakistan?
A: We want to be join Pakistan, not be absorbed into
it. We would have internal autonomy.
Q: But, surely, despite Pakistans claims, the part of
Jammu and Kashmir under its controlAzad
Kashmirlacks real autonomy?
A: Yes, Azad Kashmir cannot be said to be really
autonomous since there, too, everything happens
according to the wishes and directions of the Federal
Government. But we would make sure that our autonomy
be written into the Constitution.
Q: Do you see any significant changes in Pakistans
policies vis-à-vis Kashmir in recent years, perhaps
under American pressure?
A: Yes, considerable changes can be noticed. Earlier,
Pakistan used to insist on the right to
self-determination for the people of Jammu and
Kashmir. Musharraf was the first to change this,
arguing for a solution outside that of the UN
resolutions, an out-of-the-box solution. This
constituted the first deviation in Pakistans Kashmir
policy. Then, Musharraf began talking of seven zones
in Jammu and Kashmir, soft borders and his four-point
formula, which is nothing but a means to preserve the
Q: How do you respond to media allegations that the
Kashmiri movement for self-determination is
A: How can our struggle be called anti-Hindu? It is
a struggle for certain principles. In Hindu mythology,
when the Kauravas and the Pandavas, cousins of each
other, were arrayed against each other on the
battlefield, Arjun turned to Krishanji Maharaj, and
told him that he could not bear to fight his own
brothers. Why, he asked him, was he asking him to
fight them? He wanted to refuse to fight. But, then,
Krishanji Maharaj said, Arjun, this is a battle for
certain principles. In this, do not consider the fact
that those who are opposed to you are your relatives.
We Kashmiris, too, have such a battle for certain
principles with the Indian Government for occupying us
against our will and not acting on its promise to let
us decide our own political future. It is not a war
against Hindus or the people of India. It is not a
communal conflict. In fact, there are many Indians who
support our stand on the right to self-determination.
Q: Then why is it that the Indian media, and large
sections of the Western media, too, present the
movement as Islamic extremism or terrorism?
A: The Indian media is bound to support Indias
military occupation. How can you expect it to support
our cause? Ive seen so many massacres by the Indian
Army here, but often the media describes them as
encounters with militants. You know how the agents
of the Indian Army engineered the massacre of so many
innocent Sikhs in Chhatisinghpora and falsely
attributed this to militants, in order to convey the
misleading message to the then American President,
Bill Clinton, at that time on a visit to India, that
our struggle is a communal one, and not a freedom
movement. I can cite so many more such cases to prove
Q: But, if that is so, why is it that you and people
like you have not condemned killings by militants in
the same way as you condemn similar crimes by the
A: Wherever such incidents have happened, we have
condemned them, irrespective of the religion of the
victims. The Quran clearly states that enmity with a
people should not make one stray from the path of
justice, because justice is closer to piety.
Q: If Jammu and Kashmir becomes independent, how do
you envisage its relations with India and Pakistan?
A: It should have brotherly relations with both
Q: Some radical groups active in Kashmir argue that
all Hindus are enemies of Islam. What do you feel?
A: No, this is not so. There should be no enmity or
discrimination with anyone simply because of his
religion, caste, race, colour or country. We are
permitted to fight only those individuals who fight us
or place hurdles in the path of our faith. With others
we should have good relations, and that applies to our
relations with ordinary Hindus as well. So, when some
people argue that as a community the Hindus are
enemies of Islam, it is wrong. It is not an Islamic
way of thinking.
Q: Certain militant groups active in Kashmir say that
they will not stop their war with India until India
itself is absorbed into Pakistan and the Pakistani
flag flies atop Delhis Red Fort. What is your
A: This is emotional talk and should not be paid
attention to. We dont agree with this argument. Our
fight with India is only to the extent that India has
taken away our right to self-determination. Once we
win that right we will have no problem with India. In
fact, if by exercising this right the majority of the
people of Jammu and Kashmir say that they want to be
with India, we will also accept that.
Q: But dont you feel certain radical groups active in
Kashmir who preach hatred against Hindus and call for
Indias absorption into Pakistan are actually
defaming the religion whose cause they claim to
A: Islam has been given a bad name more by Muslims
themselves and less by Hindus. Islam has been damaged
less by open disbelief (kufr) than by hidden
hypocrisy (munafiqat), by people who claim to be
Muslims but are really not so in practice. You can
see, for instance, what people like Karzai, Musharraf
and other pro-American rulers are doing. They are
killing Muslims and destroying mosques.
Q: So, would you agree that these groups who condemn
all Hindus as enemies are actually misinterpreting
A: We cannot take responsibility for what others say.
You can ask these people yourself.
Q: What message do you have for the people of India?
A: I will only say that India should honour its
promise to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to let them
decide their own political future. Honouring ones
promise is a major principle of the Hindu religion.
Raja Dasharath, honouring the promise he made to his
wife Kaikeyi, gave his throne to his son Bharat and
ordered Ram Chandraji to go into the forest in exile.
Simply in order to keep his promise he sent his elder
son to fourteen years in the forest and gave the
throne to Bharat instead. Bharat was a man of
character and so he placed Ram Chandrajis sandals on
the throne, believing that his elder brother deserved
to rule. So, the Hindu religion teaches that one
should live up to ones promises, and if India were to
act on the advice of the Hindu scriptures in this
regard on the issue of Kashmir the conflict will be
Sukhia Sab Sansar Khaye Aur Soye
Dukhia Das Kabir Jagey Aur Roye
The world is 'happy', eating and sleeping
The forlorn Kabir Das is awake and weeping
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