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How do you interpret the low voting, just 7 per cent, in the Srinagar bypoll?
Kashmiri people have been generally participating in Lok Sabha and assembly elections. I think this was not an appropriate time to conduct an election… The heavens wouldn’t have fallen if the elections had been held when things had improved politically. The EC should have allowed keeping the two seats vacant until summer, when the durbar would have shifted to the Valley from Jammu. I think the timing was all wrong.
How do you see the violence on polling day, when eight people were killed?
Let me say clearly, this violence is a mandate against the coalition government of the BJP-PDP. In 2014, after the assembly elections, we had offered our support to the PDP and the National Conference for a greater alliance. We said the Congress would not seek any ministerial berths, let’s just form the government and continue for six years to keep the BJP out. In Parliament, I have said that for people of Kashmir, the RSS and the BJP are red rags. I had said if the BJP joins hands with a regional party in J&K, it will be disastrous. This is what is happening today.
The counter-argument is that just three days before voting, schools were burnt where polling was to take place. Like Burhan Wani, now Zakir Musa’s tapes are doing the rounds, discouraging voting.
This is nothing new. It was so in the past. There is anger in common people. Some people always incited violence. But this time, an overwhelming opposition is there against the government, which has never been there.
But it’s an elected government. The people who run it are people’s representatives.
This is a totally wrong argument. The PDP got elected because its manifesto and speeches in the Muslim-dominated areas claimed it is the only party that can stop the entry of BJP-RSS in J&K. They said the Congress is weak, they said don’t trust the NC because they joined hands once with the BJP. This is complete deception. People voted for the PDP only on the promise that they will not allow the BJP to get elected… but after getting elected they almost merged into the BJP… This Wani and Musa and other issues are excuses. The anger and gussa is against this alliance.
The PDP got support in the valley, the BJP in Jammu. So, this coalition was natural…
But the Congress and the NC both got support in Jammu, too. They could have been part of the government.
So what’s the actual ground situation?
As long as this coalition continues, the anger will continue.
Don’t you see a Pakistan element behind certain events?
It has been there since 1947. There is nothing new in it.
What is the possible move forward for the government?
The Government of India has totally failed in its Kashmir policy. I wonder if the BJP government has any Kashmir policy at all. When the BJP came to power at the Centre they had promised they will provide a strong government and not allow Pakistan to raise even a finger in J &K… In our time they may have been raising a finger but they dared not raise their fist. In Modi’s time, they are raising their fist.
In view of Pakistan’s decision on Kulbhushan Jadhav, don’t you think it’s unwise to weaken the democratically elected government in J&K?
I think Pakistan is taking advantage of the situation in Kashmir. And who is responsible for it? The BJP. I would not blame only the PDP for the alliance. They may be responsible for it but to a great extent the Modi government was responsible because they threatened parties that they would not give any money [central funding] unless they formed a coalition with them. It was browbeating. It was armtwisting of the PDP that should you go to form the government with any other party, you would not get any money from the Government of India… Now after forming the government there is another deception — the promise of Rs 80,000 crore. It [includes] Rs 20,000 crore for railways and other projects. This money is allotted for ongoing projects already announced. This is again a deception.
Do you think the coalition will collapse if things remain the same?
I don’t think the Government of India is bothered about the people of Kashmir. As long as the hook is there, they can’t go anywhere. Now the PDP can’t go anywhere. Nobody will take them. The situation has come to such a pass that even if the PDP wants talaq, no other party is going to be [with] them. Now, PDP-BJP will have to live together. And, as long as they are together, I don’t think things would improve.