Need to reach minds of boys with guns in Kashmir: Saifuddin Soz

Saifuddin Soz, who stirred controversy over his comments on an ‘independent’ Kashmir, said a hardline stand against militancy would not work in the Valley.

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz wants a “powerful dialogue” with “boys who wield guns”, not a hardline approach, in Kashmir.

In the thick of a controversy for his remarks on an “independent” Kashmir, Soz – who has authored a book, Kashmir: Glimpses of history and the story of struggle – said in an interview that the Centre should hold talks with militants through the Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of separatist organisations.

“If Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government could hold talks with the Hizbul Mujahidin, why can’t the Narendra Modi government do the same? We have to reach the minds of the boys with guns. The muscular approach will not work,’’ Soz added.

The Congress party has already distanced itself from Soz for advocating “independence”. On page 212 of his book, the author says, “(Former Pakistan president Pervez) Musharraf had explained that if Kashmiris were given a chance to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent. In fact, this assessment of Musharraf seems to be correct even today!” Soz, however, sought to douse the controversy and now says “independence is not possible.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union law minister, called Soz out as a “Pakistan proxy who has found his rightful place in the Congress party,” while another Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Subramanian Swamy, asked Soz to “move to Pakistan.”

Cautioning against a hardline approach to Kashmir militancy, Soz said, “You can kill, you can keep killing, but that will not get you a solution.”

Advocating talks between New Delhi and Srinagar and between India and Pakistan, Soz said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to travel to Islamabad in 2007 for a “crucial meeting” with Musharraf. In the book, he writes, “In June 2007, when I was a minister in the Cabinet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had invited me for a discussion on Kashmir. I found him unusually optimistic on Kashmir’s solution. He shared with me that he would visit Islamabad next month to have a decisive dialogue with Musharraf…After two weeks, I followed the PM to his chamber after the meeting and enquired…he told me that it was Musharraf who requested him for postponement of the crucial meeting and he would fix the date soon. That was unfortunate as that time never came… It was unfortunate that Manmohan Singh could not fulfil his mission and his travel to Islamabad for the final and decisive meeting with Musharraf…”

Asked why he thought the BJP broke up with its ally Mehbooba Mufti, Soz noted that the party did so in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. According to him, the BJP might start its election campaign for 2019 from Jammu.

Soz’s book, which has generated a lot of heat, is due to be released early next week.