Srinagar, India, Asharq Al-Awsat- The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a political front formed by the alliance of 26 political, social, and religious organizations in Kashmir has proposal a “United States of Kashmir” where all religious communities in the dispute territory enjoy equal representation.
In an interview with Asharq al Awsat, Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said diversity within the suggested state would be recognized and respected. The aim, he added, was for representatives of the different regions of Kashmir to decide on a settlement without pressure from India or Pakistan .
The 32-year-ol leader, who became the region’s top Muslim figure after the assassination of his father in May 1990, believes that all parties to the conflict will be required to modify their stance to reach a middle group. A range of scenarios from independence to accession by either India or Pakistan have been suggested in the past.
“The conflict in Kashmir is political; it is not connected to Islam or religious extremism. This is not a war between the Muslims in Kashmir and the Hindus in India . Of course, the majority of the valley’s inhabitants are Muslims. Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir have also prospered”, Farooq said, basking in a rare autumn sunshine in his high-security residence.
“The eruption of militancy in Kashmir highlighted the dispute. Matters have now moved from the battlefield to the discussion table. Killing innocent civilians can never be justified”, he added.
Rejecting accusations Hurriyat members were Indian government stooges, Farooq revealed the collation would use its influence on home-grown militant groups, such as Hizbul Mujahideen to reject violence if Delhi showed it was sincere. “Other groups would succumb to public pressure and follow suit since everyone now wants peace in Kashmir ,” he said.
“We appreciate India and Pakistan allowing individuals [from across the Line of Control] to meet and share their grief following the devastating earthquake. This reflects the humanitarian aspect of the conflict and renders boundaries irrelevant”, the Hurriyat leader indicated.
“The time has come to end [the dispute] and move forward. We, in Kashmir , are ready. Guns will stop firing; they have to. What needs to be addressed is the cry in the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir.”