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Interview: Sayyed Ali Gilani, Tehrik-e Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir

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  • yogi sikand
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 23, 2007
      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
      state’s 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
      of Pakistan.

      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, aren’t 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 won’t 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 theirs—not 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
      Kashmir’s 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
      in common.
      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 League’s ‘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 Madani’s 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
      minority—they 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 America’s 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
      America’s clutches and convert themselves into genuine
      Islamic states.

      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
      America’s line even more closely. You can see this
      happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only Muslim
      country that refuses to cave under American pressure
      is Iran.

      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 country’s North-West
      Frontier Province, as a result of which some eighty
      people were martyred, including around thirty
      religious scholars. Pakistan’s 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
      what’s 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
      this scheme.

      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 Kashmir’s 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 country’s 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
      dispute—Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and
      Kashmir—come 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 don’t want to bring Taliban-type Islam, but the
      real Islam of the Quran and the Practice (Sunnah) of
      the Prophet.

      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 God’s
      family—which obviously includes non-Muslims, too—in
      the best way

      Q: You advocate Kashmir’s 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 Pakistan’s claims, the part of
      Jammu and Kashmir under its control—‘Azad
      Kashmir’—lacks 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 Pakistan’s
      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 Pakistan’s 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
      status quo.

      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 India’s
      military occupation. How can you expect it to support
      our cause? I’ve 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
      this point.

      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
      Indian Army?
      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 Delhi’s Red Fort. What is your
      A: This is emotional talk and should not be paid
      attention to. We don’t 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 don’t you feel certain radical groups active in
      Kashmir who preach hatred against Hindus and call for
      India’s ‘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 one’s
      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 Chandraji’s sandals on
      the throne, believing that his elder brother deserved
      to rule. So, the Hindu religion teaches that one
      should live up to one’s 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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