Veteran Indian journalist, author and peace activist, Kuldip Nayar, in an interview to New Kashmir Editor,Farzana Mumtaz, talks how India had changed since its independence, the rise of Hindutva in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janta Party coalition government in Jammu Kashmir and how chief ministers have been installed in the State at the behest of New Delhi. Excerpts
You are one of the victims of the partition.
Yes, my family had to migrate from Sialkot at the time of partition. I came to the present day India through Lahore by road. On leaving home, we thought it was a communal thing which would stay for sometime but didn’t have an idea that the migration will change everyone’s lives in the subcontinent. When I came to this side of the border, I was penniless.
How did you end up becoming a journalist?
Before partition, I had done completed my Law degree. I knew Urdu and Persian languages. I came to know that a newspaper was looking for a Hindu who knew Urdu and I landed in a newspaper Anjaam and ended up becoming a journalist instead of a lawyer.
Do you miss Sialkot?
Everybody misses home. When I migrated, I tried my best to at least visit my ancestral home at least once. I applied for travel documents but was refused time and again. This was until Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power in Pakistan. When I interviewed him in Pakistan, I requested him for the travel documents. Pakistani Army’s cantonment in Sialkot did not allow any outsiders to visit the place. My documents got cleared the very next day and I visited Sialkot after 25 years.
You interviewed Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The news of Pakistan being a nuclear power leaked through you?
Entire world had its eyes focused on Pakistani nuclear bomb in 1980s. My friend from Pakistan, Mushahid Hussain, was with me. He had arranged that interview for me. When we sat with A Q Khan, I tried my best to know it from the horse’s mouth but all my efforts failed. Then, I provoked him saying that one of the scientists had told him that Pakistan neither had the material nor men to make a bomb. He reacted punching his hand hard on the table saying it thrice ‘We have it… we have it… we have it…’ I replied saying you have not tested it yet. He retorted saying it did not need an over ground test and tests could be done in laboratories too. The interview created ripples all around the world.
With all the backing of the Hindu rightwing parties, can Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister who can resolve Kashmir issue?
It is an appropriate time for India to get Kashmir issue resolved. If New Delhi cannot resolve this issue now, then we will have to long. Every Hindu party is with BJP and it is the right time to get Kashmir issue resolved. On the contrary, Congress cannot do anything on Kashmir. They do not have the blessings of these Hindu parties. For any Kashmir resolution, the endorsement of these Hindutva parties is a must. For resolving Kashmir issue, Modi is in a far better position than any Indian Prime Minister has ever been.
How was the Kashmir policy of the first Prime Minister of free India?
Jawaharlal Nehru was a Kashmiri and felt for Kashmir. Had Pakistan not sent their irregulars to Kashmir, Kashmir’s fate would have been entirely different. The raid provided an opportunity for India to get into Kashmir. Had raiders not invaded Kashmir, it would have become part of Pakistan. Kashmir was a natural part of Pakistan. Even Sardar Patel said to Jinnah that you take Kashmir and let Hyderabad secede.
How good was the relationship of the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah with the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru?
Sheikh was against the Maharaja and led a movement against Maharaja. Nehru supported everyone who had been against their rulers in the princely states. Sheikh was secular and a democrat and had a grip on his people.
For most of the time since the independence of India, it has been ruled by the Congress. How have they handled Kashmir?
After the partition, Congress under Nehru’s leadership was keen to get Kashmir issue resolved. But with the coming up of Jan Sangh, a force with all Hindutva backing, it became difficult for Congress to do anything or move forward on Kashmir.
And how did Nehru’s daughter deal with Kashmir?
Indira’s Kashmir policy was shaped through Sheikh Abdullah, who helped her when she was in wilderness. Later, she took him for granted.
How do you see the incumbent government in Jammu Kashmir? Will it last?
I think this government will complete its full term. Both the parties want to be in power. The only problem in this coalition is that there is a permanent divide between Kashmir and Jammu. The 2014 polls proved that there is a divide between Kashmiri Muslims and Jammu Hindus. This is very dangerous for the secular fabric of India.
Is Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to be blamed for entering into this unholy alliance?
It’s a power game. When he entered into an alliance, he said he didn’t want to alienate Jammu by going for an alliance with any other party that would not have representation from Jammu.
Why has India failed to integrate Kashmiris in the mainstream? Why has it failed to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris?
Modi will try to do everything to win Kashmiri to his side. He can go to any extent to win Kashmiris because he has to show and sell to Indian public that he has achieved something in Kashmir. If not integrate at least he can say to Indian public that he has pacified Kashmiris.
Have the successive governments in Jammu Kashmir choked the alternative political space?
The political space was always choked in Kashmir. Apart from 1977 elections, New Delhi used to handpick the chief minister for this State.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik says that he gave up armed movement at your insistence after you promised him that New Delhi would resolve f Kashmir issue if they adopted peaceful means. Is that correct?
In 1993, the IB men told me that Yasin Malik had expressed his desire of meeting me when he was being treated at a hospital in Delhi after his arrest. I agreed to the proposition and went to meet Malik at the hospital. There he told me why we didn’t take note of the Amnesty International’s report on human rights violations. I responded saying, ‘If you can trust white men, why not us?’ To this Malik responded saying he had all the trust in me.
After you convinced him to lay down arms, 600 JKLF men who had given up arms were killed by Army and paramilitary forces. Isn’t the blood of those 600 men on your hands?
I don’t have their blood on my hands. New Delhi and Indian security forces do. I regret New Delhi did not abide by the ceasefire and am sorry to Yasin Malik for that.
Many solutions have been floated for resolving Kashmir. What in your view can be the best possible solution?
I think both parts of Kashmir should merge and have a common mechanism for everything from politics to economy. Pakistan should take care of defense and foreign affairs of its part of Kashmir and India of this part. Both parts of Kashmir should come have a common mechanism for government for everything else. There should be better people-to-people contact.