J&K’s future with India: Deoband
In a significant intervention, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, the powerful body of Deobandi clerics backed the demand to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and remove security forces and barricades from civilian areas in Jammu and Kashmir. In a resolution adopted at its Kashmir Conference organized on Sunday, the JuH also demanded an independent inquiry commission to probe human rights violations and trace “thousands of lost and missing youths’’, repeal the Public Safety Act, and ensure compensation to victims. It demanded that the promise of a special economic package be kept and also asked the government to take other steps to facilitate a settlement “within the framework of the Constitution’’. This is the first time that JuH has taken up the Kashmir issue. The resolution, while sharing the anguish of Kashmiri people, stressed, “We don’t consider interests of the Kashmiri people are separate from the interests of Indian Muslims.’’ It also called all like-minded people and organizations to campaign for peace and justice in Kashmir and “thwart the enemy forces bent upon disintegration of Kashmir’’. When asked why were they silent so long, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s Kamal Farooqui said, “Muslims were not comfortable talking about Kashmir for fear of getting branded and harassment by police and intelligence agencies.’’ Asked about the prospect of resolution of the Kashmir issue, he said, “The country is in a reconciliatory mood, be it on J&K or Ayodhya. So, reconciliation within the Indian Constitution is the way out. An overwhelming section of Kashmiris want it too. Which stupid person would want to go with Pakistan?’’ The 11-point resolution slammed lethal methods of crowd control and appealed to protesters to adopt peaceful and democratic means to fight for their constitutional rights and abjure violence. Significantly Rajya Sabha MP and JuH leader Maulana Mehmood Madani remained noncommittal when asked about the organization’s stand on the three prevailing viewpoints in Kashmir: greater autonomy for the region within India, merger with Pakistan and azadi. “After our rally on October 31 in Delhi, a delegation will visit Kashmir. We will speak to the people to find out what they want and then decide on our stand,’’ Madani said. Demanding that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) be lifted immediately, Swami Agnivesh said he had met Rahul Gandhi about the Kashmir situation. “He told me he would go and see it for himself.’’ Representatives from Kashmir, however, were ambivalent. “As a Kashmiri, I am happy that Indian Muslims are at least raising their voice against injustice and repression in Kashmir,’’ said Mufti Ajazul Hassan Banday, Markazi Shariat Board chairman from Sopore, but refused to comment when asked about resolving the Kashmir issue within the Indian Constitution. Several Kashmiri students and employees at Darul Uloom Deoband were not impressed. Azadi is what they want. Mohammed Rafique, in charge of Darul Uloom’s Qutub Khana, said, “They are making statements for their own interest. What has the Deoband done for its Kashmiri students?’’ He narrated the travails of Sajjadur Rehman, a 22-year old student of Arabic at Darul Uloom. “He was arrested from his home in Doda in 2007 for his alleged involvement in the Lucknow serial blasts. He is lodged in Lucknow jail. His father is running from pillar to post pleading with Darul Uloom authorities. Have they done anything except saying he was attending classes when the blasts happened,’’ said Rafique. But Mufti Hassan says all is not lost. “India can still win over Kashmiris by doing justice and working for the employment and development of Kashmir. Lifting AFSPA, PSA and release of prisoners will be an important step,’’ he said.