Sayyed Ali Gilani, Tehrik-e Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir
Yoginder Sikand, October 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 standards?

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 poor. 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 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 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 is Iran.

Q: And now America is seeking an excuse to attack Iran.

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 monarchs.

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 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 Kashmirs union with it?

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 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 dont 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 Gods family which obviously includes non-Muslims, too in 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 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 Pakistans policies vis--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 status quo.

Q: How do you respond to media allegations that the Kashmiri movement for self-determination is anti-Hindu?

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 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 countries.

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 opinion?

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 champion?

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 Islam?

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 solved.

Feedback comments from a reader

Thanks for the message Yogi Sikand saheb,

We cannot agree with Gilani saheb on many points. His regret about the sufferings of the Kashmiri people is understandable. But not his views about how he wants to solve the problem. His pro Pakistani stand is also something fishy. There is more Islam in India than in Pakistan. There are anti-Islamic activities like terrorism in Pakistan. The democracy is so weak that only a few leaders like Benazir, Nawaz, Pervez and Fazlur Rahman dominate the whole country. People who left the country on corruption charges have to come back to take part in elections.

Allah does not give importance to names like Islam, Hinduism, Christianity etc. He sees whether we are right thinking in every aspect of life. People like me see our country India is special and only one. It cannot be compared with any other country. It is definitely better than any other country. A self respecting Muslim will live and die here. People belonging to all religions are our own brethren. They are all a part of the same humanity - the creation of God. He does not discriminate among them. A Muslim must love all and hate none.

The late Muslim League leader Quaid-e-Millath Mohammed Ismail saheb repeated several times in Parliament and elsewhere that "Kashmir is a part and parcel of India". Almost every Indian Muslim wants that Kashmir should be with India. There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan.

If people like Gilani saheb want to go to any other country, we have no problem. He and people of his ilk should also know that the Kashmiri leaders who harp on self-determination etc. are also responsible for the sufferings of the people there apart from the army atrocities. These leaders did not apply their minds to bring peace to this state and brought problems to the people by always confronting with the government. They don't follow the principles of Islam. They want to take advantage by taking its name which will never help them.

Gilani saheb's anti-American views are also one sided. One feels that countries like Saudi Arabia have done well in being friendly with the U.S.A. The world is a global village.

Gilani saheb is right in saying that he will accept the verdict of the Kashmiri people. He knows that they want to remain with India. Let him and other politicians of his thinking accept this clear scene, give up their struggle and join hands with India to make the Jammu and Kashmir valley a progressive one by establishing industries, educational institutions, hospitals etc. instead of repeating valueless slogans and wasting time.

As Iqbal said, India is the most beautiful country in the world. Saray jahaan say achcha Hindustan hamaara.......