The Indian portion of Kashmir has been in the grip of violence as thousands of people in the state capital Srinagar and other parts of the valley continue to clash with the security forces, defying a month-long curfew.
The protests started after the killing of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri separatist leader, by the security forces on July 8.
Since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir – a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim.
While the Indian civil society has called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to engage in dialogue with Kashmiri separatists, his government said it would use more force against what it says is a Pakistan-backed militancy.
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of India-administered Kashmir, wants a meaningful dialogue between New Delhi and the separatists to end the ongoing crisis. The 46-year-old president of the National Conference party urged Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Modi, the opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi and the Kashmiri state officials to hold talks with all stakeholders.
In an exclusive interview with DW, Abdullah criticized New Delhi’s handling of the Kashmir crisis and suggested political solutions to resolve it.
DW: Despite a government crackdown on the protesters, the situation in Indian Kashmir hasn’t improved. Is the state government not handling it well?
Omar Abdullah: The protests refuse to die down because the government does not acknowledge that there is a problem in Kashmir. Both central and state governments have turned a blind eye to the ongoing crisis. What we witness in Kashmir is a political problem. It cannot be handled administratively.
What, in your opinion, could be the consequences of this for Kashmir?
When the officials in New Delhi say that Kashmir is an integral part of India, they don’t take into account the aspirations and grievances of the Kashmiri people; they only talk about a piece of land. The Indian authorities need to own the people also, those who live in Kashmir, as much as they own the territory. When protests erupt in other parts of India, Prime Minister Modi intervenes immediately because he considers the people of those states as his own people. But the anger and the demands of the Kashmiris are never owned that way. I fear that if New Delhi continues on this path, the Kashmiri state will destabilize further.
What has been the role of Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti since the start of the crisis?
We are an opposition group in Kashmir but we do not want to exploit the crisis to bring down Mufti’s government. We want the violence to end in the valley. Mufti holds everyone except her own government responsible for the current situation. I think it is high time that Mufti takes some responsibility and acknowledges her mistakes also. The reason we are not demanding her resignation is that I don’t want to give this impression that I want the chief minister position for myself in this hour of crisis.
The protests started after the killing of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri separatist leader, by the security forces on July 8
There was no mention of the Kashmir crisis in Prime Minister Modi’s Independence Day speech. What does it say about his stance?
If the prime minister wanted to talk about human rights violations in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in his Independence Day speech, he had every right to do it. But we also want him to talk about Kashmir, which has been in the grip of violence for over 40 days.
Omar Abdullah is the former chief minister of India-administered Kashmir and president of the National Conference opposition party.