Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone who, until recently was a close ally of the ruling BJP in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and has been detained as part of the crackdown in the Valley in the wake of the abrogation of the state’s special status and downgrade to a Union Territory, “will now have to do some tough and critical thinking on his future course of action,” his wife Asma Khan Lone told The Indian Express.
Sajad Lone is detained at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar.
“The changes have impacted the core of our indigenous consciousness and I’m sure his decision will be in keeping with the demand of the situation, whatever that may be,” she said.
Sajad Lone, whose father Abdul Gani Lone was killed by militants in 2002, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2014. He had called Modi his “older brother” and after the Assembly polls, was made a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government from the BJP’s quota.
Lone was also instrumental in the conduct of panchayat and local body polls after the NC and PDP decided to boycott the civic polls last year.
Lone, however, strongly opposed New Delhi’s moves to tamper with J&K’s status. Days ahead of New Delhi’s move, he was part of the all-party meet in Srinagar that had called “any fiddling with J&K’s special status an aggression against the people of the state”.
Wife Asma Lone recalled that she spoke to him last on August 4. “He was very tense. Though various possibilities were doing the rounds, I don’t think he had an idea of the extent of the change.”
“At great personal risk, against the prevailing narrative and in defiance of counsel by close quarters, Sajad decided to take the plunge and acquired the mantle of mainstream politics in Kashmir. He was convinced this would provide him the opportunity to make a difference, contribute and effect grassroot empowerment, ultimately creating a legacy of his own. He tried to deliver to the best of his abilities in his limited stint in power,’’ she said. “Today, he finds himself in trying circumstances. To top it all off, the rumour mill of Kashmir is in overdrive, manufacturing stories of a fabricated role in an imagined “sell out”. I can clearly detect a pattern and groundwork, God forbid, similar to the conditions created in the run-up to the assassination of his father”.
Saying she felt “let down and violated”, Asma Lone said, “Though I was never part of Sajad’s political decision-making, yet I was the foremost recipient of its fallout. It has been an arduous path riddled with challenges, the greatest being dealing with the safety of my young children. It is draining, living with threats, both real and perceived — the latest being conveyed just a few days ago,” she said. “The price has been huge.”
“The first thing my children do once they get back from school is to ask me about their father,” she said. “They ask me whether I get to talk to Baba (father)… does he get proper food? As innocent as they may seem, these are serious questions, I wonder at the optics it creates for a new generation of young Kashmiris,’’ she said.
“Being a native of Gilgit-Baltistan and an ardent advocate of its indigenous rights,’’ she said, “in keeping with precedents set by great nations, I hope India too will honour the will of the people of Kashmir.”
“As to our future here, I was looking forward to building a life in Srinagar once the boys would have left for university and out of harm’s way. Alongside my writing, I had planned to do social work at the grassroot level. There were many ideas I had discussed, promises I had made and hopes I had ignited. I still hope I’m given the chance and the legitimacy to go live that dream.”