Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, younger brother of J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and PDP candidate for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat where the bypoll has been rescheduled for May 25 in view of the Valley situation, has said there is a “concerted effort” at various levels to “destroy even the last shred of the party’s core political base in Kashmir and completely erode its credibility”.
He said there is “complete disregard of PDP’s understanding of the current situation and necessary steps will need to be taken to assuage the hurt and anger among Kashmiri youth”. Speaking to The Indian Express, Tassaduq Mufti said: “PDP will have to be firm to push forth its agreed agenda of alliance. There is only one party in this entire conflict that is not being listened to and that is the people. Systems have broken down and there is perhaps little regard for the credibility of our (J&K) government in Delhi. But I am sure that sooner or later, Delhi will have to respond to the crisis on the ground.
This absence of political initiative and over-dependence on military methods isn’t taking us anywhere.” He said the Centre would need to do much more than maintain silence on crucial issues like forward movement on engagement and talks in Kashmir.
“We cannot do it on our own. And skirting this important aspect of our agreed common agenda does not help. When I met youngsters during my interactions recently, I found a lot of hopelessness. They have nothing to look forward to. There is nothing to be happy about. The political issue is there which forms the background. But then, they have no jobs also, and the issue of unemployment has never been addressed systematically all these years. No livelihood analysis, no innovative thinking, no trying to figure out what the actual needs are, but just window-dressing and ad hoc solutions. The ramifications are for all to see,” he said.
On the ground situation:
“We have a two-fold problem here. One is the larger political discontent, which is deep-rooted and will not go away, irrespective of which government is in Srinagar or Delhi, unless it is seriously addressed. And the other is a sense of alienation which finds a violent expression in stone-pelting that has caught the fascination of all ages and areas now; boys as young as 12 and as old as 30 are into it. It is discontent and disillusionment operating at different levels that has made space for an organised rebellious activity and we can’t afford to see everything getting wiped out in front of our eyes. It has to be a multi-pronged strategy that is sensitive to various facets of the problem.”
“Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting young people from various parts of the Valley and most of them express deep sense of distress and anger. No one has ever heard them out. Boys as young as 14 spoke about continuous harassment by the police after an FIR was lodged against them and how they have to pay bribes to get out. Most of them are not even in the voting age and they are nobody’s vote-bank, nobody’s concern. There is no communication with them. But they matter the most. And there is only a military or police response. No goodwill. So if there are ways to prevent radicalisation, I am sure that this is not one of them.”
On the way forward:
“We have to also ask direct questions. We have to ask as to why are so many youngsters being killed and injured in firing. Why aren’t the people responsible for law enforcement finding a way to prevent it? With all the gruesome videos that are making their way into public domain, one wonders about each and every killing that took place. Every case must be thoroughly investigated and those in the wrong punished. People in important positions have to be held responsible for such deterioration in the situation. One killing leads to more protests and thus more killings. we can’t afford this cycle to go on and on. If we don’t address this issue immediately, it is inevitable that the scale of our problem will go up to such a level that we haven’t witnessed earlier. We can’t wait for the problem to go so big that we run out of options.”
“I also think that this type of response where we see all — youngsters particularly and the Kashmiri population in general — only through the prism of law and order and don’t come up with a cogent plan for engagement, is not going to work, no matter how much force is used. We are dealing with a tech-savvy, sensitive, politically conscious, intelligent generation. They have no appetite for gimmickry and bluster. We have to reach out sincerely, make the administration responsive and create opportunities at all levels by improving governance. The role of those responsible for keeping order will need to be evaluated and redefined. Systems should be set in place to heal and not aggravate the problem.”
On videos of torture, beating by securitymen:
“I would ask security establishment one straight question. I am puzzled by the videos that have been put up on Internet over the past few days. Quite a few of them seemed to have been filmed by forces themselves and were subsequently released on social media for public viewing. Who allowed this and why? If a soldier has done it on his own, it is a serious case of indiscipline. And if such a thing has been authorised, then it is a much more serious issue. We would like to know why, because such illegal public display of torture and humiliation of Kashmiri youngsters, even if they were throwing stones and protesting, has a direct and dangerous implication for us in the state. It doesn’t only destroy our credibility on the ground. It has outraged people across the board. And not to forget that it hurts the reputation of the forces also. We and our workers would be lynched; by ‘we’, I mean the entire mainstream. There is no doubt that this type of provocation will further set Kashmir on fire.”
On the latest flare-up:
“Our government cannot be blamed for this latest flare-up of violence. I am not passing the buck, but we have been consistently telling the Election Commission that the situation is not conducive for holding bypolls in Kashmir. The central government was also aware that things would take much more time to normalise, especially after the widespread unrest we faced last year. We made it clear to the EC and the Centre that if they go ahead with the polls, there would be violence and the voter turnout would be embarrassingly low. They did not agree. And exactly the same thing happened during the bypolls for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Eight lives were lost that day.”
“After Srinagar, it was evident that the scale of violence and protests would be much higher in south Kashmir. So, the EC decided to defer the polls. The day we wrote to them that the situation is precarious and the polls needed to be postponed indefinitely, the same evening they announced another date — May 25. They did not even send a team to assess the situation on the ground… if there is violence on May 25, it may trigger another phase of unrest… This also means that we will have a code of conduct for another month and a half, preventing us from doing any substantial work. I am at a loss to understand the logic behind this move by the EC.”
On anti-Muslim vitriol, politics over beef:
“Whatever is happening in the country, from UP to Rajasthan, has an adverse impact on the situation in Kashmir. We can’t do much about that. But we do wish that we would get help to calm tempers. It is natural that if India changes, then the relations of Kashmir will further change and, may be, change for the worse.”
On the future of mainstream politics in Kashmir:
“The way mainstream politics is conducted currently in the state wouldn’t work. We won’t be able to sustain it in this way too long. We need to engage with other political parties. Opposition is not an enemy but an opponent. We need to get together and engage each other, come up with a common front. We have a lot in common and if we don’t understand the seriousness of the threat against all of us, we will cease to exist sooner or later. It is not a question of power anymore. It is a question of order. We can’t allow Kashmir to slip into anarchy from where there is no coming back. We have to come together to convince Delhi regarding the need for immediate de-escalation and engagement in Kashmir.” “Our opposition in the mainstream also needs to understand that our loss isn’t necessarily their gain. Currently, it is a loss for all of us. We are together in this boat and if you try and make a hole in this boat, we are all going to drown together. The idea of mainstream is under challenge this time. If all of us are seen as on this side of the fence and the public sentiment is on the other side, then we become the fringe. This is a reality that I am quite aware of. That is why I want that rather than pulling one another down, we should come together to reclaim the lost ground.”