PDP a symbol of struggle

After forging alliance with BJP in 2015 PDP operated as a shield for people of J&K to save them from the wrath of saffron party, who had evil eyes on our resources and particularly on special status under Article 370. What happened in 2019 would have happened in 2015 if PDP had not tied their hands for three years. Speaking on several issues ranging from forging alliance with BJP to quashing FIRs against 12,000 youth, dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat, formation of PAGD, delay in elections etc, PDP President & former Chief Minister J&K Mehbooba Mufti talks with Editor The Kashmir Magazine Mohammad Aslam Bhat. Excerpts of the interview:

Kashmir Magazine

The Kashmir Magazine (TKM): You have been re-elected as a party President recently. What will be your priorities in present political scenario?

Mehbooba Mufti: PDP is not only the name of participating in elections but a symbol of struggle. This was the vision of Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who wanted peace in the region with dignity. But to achieve this objective in toughest circumstances we need a strong party for it and I believe PDP is the only political party who is raking up people’s issues and seeking their dignified resolution. It is our clear stand that New Delhi should come forward and resolve the long standing Kashmir issue, and being head of the party it will remain my priority to flag up this core issue in future as well.

TKM: What is PDP’s Self Rule?

Mehbooba Mufti: We have no option left other than Self Rule. It is Late Mufti’s vision. We need to reopen roads connecting J&K to Central Asia. If incumbent government claims peace and beating drums about normalcy then there should have been withdrawal of forces. They should have been vacated from populated areas and sent to barracks. But unfortunately government is providing more land to security forces here. In north Kashmir’s Pattan government is handing over more land to forces. We believe if there is peace as government is asserting, then forces should be withdrawn from hinterland, power projects should be returned back to J&K, roads connecting to other part of Kashmir should be reopened, people from both sides of Kashmir should be allowed to meet, connect with each other at least twice in a year. I believe neither India’s integrity nor Pakistan’s security will be breached if Self Rule is implemented, which is the only solution to this decades long lingering issue.

TKM: Why did you form coalition with BJP when abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A) was evidently on its target?

Mehbooba Mufti: If we know someone is coming to destroy our house what should we do in those circumstances? It is PDP who tied their hands for three-years and stopped them from misadventure like abrogating Article 370. We have to engage sometimes even with our opposition or enemy. What happened in 2019 would have happened in 2015. In Supreme Court defense counsels out rightly said that Article 370 and 35(A) were taken away unconstitutionally. We forge alliance with BJP on pre-conditions which include staying away from tinkering Article 370, initiate dialogue with Pakistan, withdraw security forces from populated areas, etc. Our main concern was to keep special status of J&K under Article 370 untouched.

TKM: Why BJP withdrew its support?

Mehbooba Mufti: There were multiple reasons. We withdrew 12000 FIRs registered against youth. We convinced New Delhi to take Hurriyat Conference on board and wrote letter to Hurriyat for talks which were historical step. We ensured ceasefire on borders though militants didn’t respond to our call positively. I dropped two BJP ministers who supported rapists of Kathua in broad day light and used tricolor for fulfilling their interest. I want to clear it that PDP was a shield for people to save them from the wrath of BJP. I will continue my father’s legacy which is to connect people with people and provide them peaceful atmosphere and a dignified life. Is this not a success that no scam happened in my tenure? I was reiterating dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat Conference, so BJP realized grave threat from my existence and so accordingly they withdrew their support on June 19, 2018.

TKM: How do you see Late Vajpayee’s and Modi’s era?

Mehbooba Mufti: There is a huge difference between the two. Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee didn’t leave dialogue with Pakistan despite cross border skirmishes and other uncertain situations. Vajpayee had a unique thought as far as Kashmir is concerned. Today India is supporting Israel and denounces innocent Palestinian people. Today’s BJP is going against the opinion of Late Vajpayee. I didn’t allow BJP to thrust this sort of agenda in J&K. Whatever BJP did so far is unconstitutional. BJP considers J&K and its resources as “Maal-e-Ganeemat” (war booty). Our education, employment, contracts, land etc are at stake. The outsiders are being brought here in the name of reservations. There is open loot going on today and this all has started from Jammu. A State which acceded with India by heart has become a colony of New Delhi.

TKM: Govt. is claiming peace, normalcy, tourist influx, trouble free education etc. How do you see it?

Mehbooba Mufti: BJP has literally turned whole Kashmir into a jail, and there is always silence in the jail. You can’t avail employment or a passport if any of your relative had associated with militancy. They have banned Jama’at-e-Islami here which is being pushed to support some particular political party in lieu of de-freezing their accounts and institutions unlocked. If there is normalcy why outside jails are packed with Kashmiri youth? Today nobody dares to talk due to harsh laws implemented in J&K that left 70 percent population under depression. Religious preachers and clerics are being summoned to Police Stations and being told to avoid speaking on Palestine issue. You can ask school administration how many days in a year they are teaching students and how many days students are being directed to take part in government functions. BJP is cooking stories and nothing else. Is this not a BJPs failure that they played politics on rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits. They are constructing permanent structures for security forces but didn’t pay heed to concerns of KPs.

TKM: It has been observed that allies of PAGD speak against each other occasionally. How do you see it?

Mehbooba Mufti: People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is not meant for power politics, rather it has been formed to restore rights taken away by New Delhi on August 05, 2019. The formation of PAGD comes as a shock to New Delhi. It is evident that Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed stood against NC for 70 years, but today we stood on the same page for the interest of J&K and its people. I can’t rule out if a leader of any party has spoken against the ally. It may happen and it is a minor issue. This will not impact our mutual functioning.

TKM: How do you see delay in assembly elections in J&K?

Mehbooba Mufti: It is a deep conspiracy of BJP to make people of J&K begging for elections. Earlier people were seeking resolution of Kashmir issue but today we are seeking elections. This is what BJP made the situation in J&K. They broke J&K into parts but failed to break the resolve and determination of people. BJP not only treat Pakistan as its enemy but they also roped Kashmir in the line.

TKM: Where do you see PDP today?

Mehbooba Mufti: PDP is a shield for people of J&K to save them from the wrath of BJP who realized that only PDP has a potential to take stand for its own people. I took harsh stand in Kathua rape and murder case and Gujjar’s evacuation from wooden areas. But instead they broke our party forcibly. They let lose the reins of agencies like NIA, ED, CBI, SIA etc against me to keep me silent.

TKM: BJP alleges Gandhi-Nehru family for destroying country. How do you see it?

Mehbooba Mufti: This is all baseless. Gandhi-Nehru family has immense contributions in the history of India. They sacrificed their family members even for the integrity of the country. PM Narendra Modi sought votes from countrymen against the killings of 40 CRPF personnel who laid down their lives in Pulwama attack in 2019, but on the other side Indira Gandhi who was the third Prime Minister of India freed Bangladesh but didn’t seek votes. This defines her character. If there had 10 more Gandhi-Nehru families in India, today the country would have more developed than America and China.