Vallabhbhai Patel was ready to give away Kashmir to Pakistan: Saifuddin Soz

Photo: Reuters

Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Saifuddin Soz on Monday said that 'azaadi' is not possible in Kashmir and the only way forward is for all stakeholders to sit together and hold a vigorous dialogue to solve the problem.

Soz also blamed the media for "twisting" his statement on supporting Pervez Musharraf's proposal for giving autonomy to Kashmiris, which had invited sharp criticism from the BJP though the Congress had distanced itself from his comments.

The Congress had termed his remarks as a "cheap gimmick" to promote his book, which was released on Monday.

He, however, said that Vallabhbhai Patel was ready to give Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first prime minister, as he was a pragmatic man and wanted to avoid a war with the neighbouring country.

He claimed that it was Lord Mountbatten and not Jawaharlal Nehru who took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations.

"Azaadi is not possible, but the Constitution of India should accommodate Kashmir," he said, adding that even Musharraf had told his generals and wanted autonomy on both sides of Kashmir.

"Shedding blood will not solve the Kashmir problem... You can go on killing Kashmiris. Kill them...but the problem will not be resolved," he said, asking "Did the Taliban get killed".

He was speaking at the launch of his book - "Kashmir-Glimpses of history and the story of struggle", where no Congress leader was present except former Union minister Jairam Ramesh.

While former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who was invited for the book launch did not turn up, former finance and home minister P Chidambaram, who was to launch the book and hold a discussion on the Kashmir issue, also skipped the event after the Congress snubbed Soz for his remarks.

Soz, however, repeatedly said at the book launch that it was his book and his party was not responsible for it.

"It is my book and I am responsible and my party, the Indian National Congress, has nothing to do with it. It is my book and I have narrated facts... I have done the research for this book and I have the confidence in me that these are well-researched facts and I am responsible for it," he said repeatedly.

Former union minister Arun Shourie, while participating in the discussion on the Kashmir issue, termed the Modi government's "surgical strikes" against terrorists across the border with Pakistan as "farzi-kal strikes" (bogus strikes). He said that there was neither any Kashmir policy, nor any policy on Pakistan or China. He also dubbed this government as "event-oriented and election-oriented" one.

Shourie, in fact, went ahead declaring "there was no government... There is a one-track horse. That horse is to divide Hindus and Muslims. This is having murderous consequences for the country, especially in Kashmir".

He said that with incidents of lynching in India getting a "thunder-clap" in Kashmir, "We are forcing Kashmiris to be not seen as Kashmiris but as a Muslim."

Soz, while defending Nehru's approach towards resolving the Kashmir issue, said, "Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a pragmatist and he offered Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan...the book says so. He told him 'don't talk of Hyderabad, talk Kashmir; take Kashmir, but don't talk of Hyderabad as Liaquat Ali Khan was preparing for war and he (Patel) was not'."

He also said, "Who took Kashmir to United Nations? It was Mountbatten, not Jawaharlal Nehru who took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations. Facts are there."

Soz also called for dialogue and urged people to get together and the opposition led by the Congress to become a bridge between the people of Kashmir and the government of India to solve the issue.

"Let us leave the extremes and come to the middle... This book shows the middle course," he said.

"It is the people of Kashmir who created the dispute, the problem. The problem is there... Let us not discuss the system, the system of intolerance and that of lynchings and the system of taking lives."

Noting that going into the history will not help as Kashmir is a special situation, he said, "Kashmir has become a laboratory of knowing India. Kashmir is the laboratory of knowing what is happening in India through lynchings, intolerance..."

He blamed the "small minds" in politics and the agencies who created this situation in Kashmir and noted, "It is the small minds who ruined Kashmir and did not allow Nehru to move forward... Delhi diluted the autonomy of Kashmir."

Soz said the hopes of Kashmir settling down in eternity faded after Nehru's death, but the issue could have been resolved later on two occasions - once during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure and then again during Manmohan Singh's tenure and "we lost the opportunities".

"The only hope in Kashmir is that you raise a dialogue. If you open a dialogue with conditions, then you will not succeed. The warring parties should come to the middle to the centre of the agreement," he said.

Earlier, noted journalist Kuldeep Nayyar, a former adviser to ex-prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, also said that Shastri had told him that India and Patel were ready to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan.