Edited Excerpts from an interview
In the 2008 Assembly polls, the PDP had carved for itself an image of a soft-separatist party. The party chiefly stood for self-rule in Jammu & Kashmir. But now, the PDP wants to be seen as a party that is Indian by conviction. Why this need for an image makeover?
The PDP is still for self-rule in J&K, something that is within the ambit of India’s Constitution. Self-rule doesn’t challenge Kashmir’s accession to India. In fact, the PDP is the only party that believes in Kashmir’s accession to India by conviction. Unlike the NC, which is pro-India while it’s in power and anti-India while in Opposition. For the NC, it is a give-and-take relationship with New Delhi. Its simple message to New Delhi is: “Give us power or we will create trouble for you in J&K.” It is a relationship of convenience. It is this political baggage that haunts J&K’s system. New Delhi doesn’t trust the political parties in the state.
Having said that, self-rule is not a solution for Kashmir. It is a roadmap, a practical roadmap. We want demilitarisation, a joint advisory council between divided parts of Kashmir, an elected governor etc. We also want J&K to become a gateway to Central Asia. But these demands created a degree of insecurity in New Delhi. They thought Mufti saheb (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed), like Sheikh Abdullah earlier, will also do a U-turn if he were to become more popular with the people. We have to address this insecurity. So, we say we believe in accession but that doesn’t mean that Kashmir be cut off from the rest of the world. So, we want all crossborder roads to be reopened in Kashmir. This will dispel suffocation and a sense of siege and will also help the economy of the state.
Why do you want a separate central ministry for J&K?
We want a separate ministry for J&K because we believe it is necessary to change New Delhi’s security approach to Kashmir. We will seek parliamentary approval for upgrading the existing Department of J&K Affairs, which is currently a part of the Union home ministry. The idea is to give the Centre’s engagement with J&K a development focus. Our agenda is also to use Parliament, both inside and outside, to bring a change into the mindset vis-a-vis Kashmir and make people in New Delhi trust us.
Both the NC and the PDP need the support of the Congress to be in power in J&K. Has this made the Congress a de facto ruler of the state?
We were part of a coalition government with the Congress from 2002 to 2008. We were able to perform well. There was good governance and both parties benefited. But now, see what is happening. Governance is in the pits. There are scams and there is no accountability. Farooq Abdullah was involved in the state cricket board scam. NC worker Haji Yusuf died after Omar handed him over to the police. The mindset in Delhi is that whatever the politicians in Kashmir do, it should be overlooked. They believe that Kashmiri politicians need to be corrupted to remain pro-India. As if we cannot be Indian by conviction. Politicians in the state are exploiting this mindset. When a politician is involved in an immoral act, he claims immunity by projecting himself as an Indian nationalist, as was the case recently with Congress leader Shabir Khan. After a woman alleged that he sexually assaulted her, Khan said that he was being targeted for being an Indian nationalist.
Having said that, I don’t think the Congress is the de facto ruler. It depends on the election. The party or the parties that will get the requisite seats will form the government either in a coalition or independently.
Will you join hands with the BJP, if only to make the Congress feel vulnerable in J&K?
No, we will not go with the BJP. Politics is not only about being in power, it is about keeping faith with the people and not losing their trust. But we have demonstrated in the past that we can work with the BJP government at the Centre. During our term in power, we were partners with the Congress in J&K but we praised (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and appreciated his initiatives on Kashmir.
On the other hand, the NC was the BJP’s partner at the Centre. Omar was a minister in the NDA government. His father Farooq Abdullah praised (Narendra) Modi. He said he could see Allah in the eyes of Modi.
How do you look at Modi’s rise? If elected, will he be able to make a difference on the Kashmir issue?
It’s a fact that Modi has emerged as a popular mass leader. But I think the Congress has facilitated his rise by its misrule. The Congress did nothing to stop him. The party’s only bid to stop Modi was to hang Afzal Guru. He was pulled from 28th place (on the execution list) and secretly sent to the gallows without even informing his family. This was done just to deny Modi a slogan. This was very communal of the Congress to do so. The party didn’t bother to hang the killers of Rajiv Gandhi but effortlessly executed Guru. Wasn’t the Congress playing a communal card to appease Modi?
Modi is talking of development and good governance but this doesn’t absolve him of his role in the Gujarat riots. True, the courts have given him a clean chit but it doesn’t lessen his moral responsibility for the killings and rapes of the minority community in his state.
As for whether Modi will deliver on Kashmir, there is a school of thought that being an authoritarian leader and belonging to the BJP, he can certainly move with confidence on Kashmir. The BJP has already made it clear that it will go by Vajpayee’s policies on the state. Vajpayee had sought to resolve Kashmir within the bounds of Insaniyat. The BJP then took decisions and the Congress supported them. But the BJP didn’t back the Congress’ initiatives. So, it was always one step forward and four steps backward with the Congress. If elected, I think Modi will be in a better position to take some bold decisions on Kashmir.