‘Yusuf has taken all secrets with him to the grave’

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PDP spokesman Naeem Akhter tells Riyaz Wani that the J&K CM has much to explain about the NC worker’s custodial death

Naeem Akhter
Naeem Akhter
Photo: Abid Bhat

On what basis are you saying  Syed Yusuf was tortured at Omar Abdullah’s residence when it was actually the chief minister who handed him over to the Crime Branch?
We don’t have an investigating agency. The government handout on 30 September said that all the three persons were asked to report with their grievances at the CM’s residence in the afternoon. And on realising that the complaint involves serious allegations, the IGP Crime was called. The three were asked by the IGP to report to Crime Branch Headquarters. But Yusuf reported uneasiness and nausea and he was asked to move to one of the escort vehicles. An ambulance and doctor were also called. But Omar Abdullah says the deceased was hale and hearty when he left.

Do you think murky financial dealings are limited to the National Conference or spread across the entire political class?
It is not important to look at it in this context. This menace is spread all over the country and we are doing everything to battle it. During this discussion, the CM asked Yusuf where he had kept the money that he received from his constituency representative from Ganderbal and from Abdul Salam Reshi from Kokernag. Yusuf, according to Omar, said he had given the money to Farooq Abdullah, who is the NC chief. The next thing we know is that Yusuf is dead and has taken all the secrets with him to the grave.

The PDP has made Yusuf’s death an issue but is silent on the fake encounter case involving J&K DGP Kuldip Khoda.
Encounters in J&K are routine but the people had hope in a system that is represented at the political level by our CM. If that institution gets muddied the way it has under Omar, we cannot remain silent, although we have been protesting all human rights violations, especially the fake encounters, and have even been called soft secessionists for it.

After the custody death came to light, the PDP has taken an aggressive line against NC whereas you were together with the party on the Afzal Guru issue. Both of you sat silent while the Congress created a ruckus over an unrelated issue.
You cannot agitate in the same way in all circumstances. We were the first party to issue an appeal to the President pleading for clemency. We had issued instructions to all the members to vote for the resolution. We went by the Speaker’s assurance that a discussion would be allowed if we remained silent. But in the process, one feels sad that the Assembly as an institution has lost much of its value.

As far as unidentified and unmarked graves are concerned, they were being dug while you were also in power. Now how can you blame the current state government for this?
We are not blaming them for digging these graves. We are asking for a closure. There are two concurrent tragedies. One, the disappearances. There are 10,000 people who claim their loved ones have disappeared. We have almost as many unmarked graves all over the state. What do you make of this? The State Human Rights Commission has given the government a roadmap. And the government has to evolve a mechanism to do this.

The PDP has opposed the CM’s proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Why?
Nobody stops him from establishing a commission. He has said this while in the Opposition too. We believe that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission cannot be cut and paste from South Africa, where there were unharmonious relations between two communities. In Kashmir, the conflict is between the state and the citizen. Unless the state gives justice to its citizens, there cannot be reconciliation, and therefore, no justice and resolution in Kashmir.

Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka. 
riyaz@tehelka.com

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