Government interlocutor on Kashmir Dileep Padgaonkar tells Prakhar Jain that the media misread his views on Afzal Guru
Media reports have quoted you as saying that the home ministry’s decision to reject Afzal Guru’s clemency plea is badly timed.
I have not said any such thing. In fact, I said two different things. First is that I am against capital punishment. And second, so long as capital punishment is there in the statute books, there is precious little one can do but follow the judgment of the Supreme Court. In the manner of implementing the judgment, in whichever case it might apply, the implementation part should be balanced with the overall context in which you carry this out. These are are the points that I have made.
Didn’t you say that the timing could cause unrest in the Valley?
No, I have never once mentioned timing. I am against capital punishment and the trial has been fair and open. Like I said, so long as there is death penalty in the statute books and the trial has been fair, etc, you have got to uphold that. But the actual implementation part of the verdict has to be balanced in the context of the situation. This is now true not just for Afzal Guru, it is true also in terms of two others, namely in the case of Tamil Nadu and Punjab in the Rajiv Gandhi assassins and the Bhullar case respectively.
Personally, do you think that Kashmir can revert to the pre-1953 status?
I shall not discuss anything that we are likely to propose and on a matter that is confidential. It would be submitted to the Government of India and it is for the government to think what to do with the report.
What options do you have? Would autonomy for Kashmir be one of them?
The recommendations have not even been discussed among the three of us (interlocutors). We will do so after we return from our trip to Kashmir. Once we decide on the recommendations, they shall be given only to the government and we are not going to share it with anyone. It is only for the Government of India.
You have visited 18 out of 22 districts in Kashmir. Are there any plans to cover the ones that have been left out?
We are going to visit Kashmir again in the third week of September. We will complete visiting the remaining four districts of the state during that visit.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram once said that you should not give ball-by-ball commentary and now you have landed in one more controversy.
We have not been giving any ball-by-ball commentary but there is simply no way in which you can stonewall the media, because that would create more speculation about what you are doing. I am a media person myself, so I know exactly what it means to say no to the press.
There are rumours that you are not meeting separatist leaders due to pressure from the government. Is that true?
We have never done anything under pressure. From our very first visit, we have said that we would like to meet them (the separatists). It is for them to decide if, when and where to meet. But we are open to everyone’s ideas.
What impact would the controversy regarding your attending various conferences organised by Kashmiri American Council Director Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai have on your assessment of Kashmir?
Nothing at all. That’s a closed chapter. All our recommendations are going to be unanimous.
Prakhar Jain is a Trainee Correspondent with Tehelka.