Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz has stoked a controversy by claiming that people of Kashmir prefer "independence" and pitched for dialogue between the central government and the Hurriyat Conference. He also made a startling claim that successive central governments since 1953 has alienated Kashmiris from India\u2019s heartland and committed \u201cblunders\u201d. Notably, during this period Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were the Prime Ministers. \u201cAnd, if the Union of India has to talk to the people of Kashmir, it will have to decide the grouping with which it will initiate the dialogue. In my opinion, it is the political conglomerate called the Hurriyat. Then, the ball will certainly move to what is broadly known as the \u2018mainstream\u2019,\u201d Soz writes in a book published by Rupa Publications. Backing former Pakistan Pervez Musharraf's "idea" that if Kashmiris were given a chance to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent, this "assessment" stands "correct even today". \u201cHe (Musharraf) had also convinced his colleagues that the resolutions of the UN on Kashmir had constituted a redundant situation as these meant a tight-jacket for Kashmiris whether they wanted to go with India or to Pakistan. 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!\u201d he writes. Soz also talked about the \u201cso-called Musharraf-Vajpayee-Manmohan formula\u201d which he says had envisaged same borders but free movement across the region, autonomy on both the sides and demilitarisation. Quoting credible sources, he says Musharraf had convinced his top colleagues, both in the army and outside, that it was the only possible solution. Soz claimed the government \u201cshould have realized much earlier that it was wrong for it to dilute the autonomy that was enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 between (Jawaharlal) Nehru and the Sheikh.\u201d \u201cNehru had realized that India\u2019s policy had gone wrong in Kashmir and it was the greatest blunder committed by the Government of India to have dismissed and arrested the Sheikh unconstitutionally. Nehru had regretted the action, but the Union of India itself hadn\u2019t learnt the lesson as it repeated its mistake by incorporating a clause in the Indira-Abdullah Accord of 1975 aimed at examining all the central laws promulgated in Jammu & Kashmir since 1953, but never showed its nerve to implement the same,\u201d he said. Asserting that the Centre should realise that no amount of stringent measures in Kashmir, be it through bullets or pellets, can solve the problem, he said the \u201cdraconian\u201d AFSPA must be revoked and size of troops present in the Valley be scaled down. \u201cSo, it is the Union of India that caused unrest in the minds of the people of Kashmir and deepened it over a period of time by committing mistakes one after the other. The Union of India has to adopt a mechanism to assess properly as to what has gone wrong and how it can be corrected,\u201d he said.