As J&K braces for local body elections starting October 8 amid militant threats and boycott calls by the PDP and National Conference, Governor Satya Pal Malik said Wednesday that “India has made mistakes, and its mistakes have, in the process, alienated itself” from the people of the Valley. He said his priority is to “create an environment of trust” in which the Centre can initiate talks with mainstream parties and even the Hurriyat if they come to the table “without the condition of involving Pakistan”.
Speaking to The Indian Express (full interview tomorrow), Malik, who took charge of J&K two months after the state was placed under Governor’s rule following the collapse of the PDP-BJP government, said, “Kashmir is not an occupied territory”.
“Yeh koi, ek tarah se, occupation nahin hai. Isko ab aap occupation term do, woh ek alag baat hai. Lekin nahin, woh baat baithti nahin hai. Ye kaho ki humse mishandling hui hai. India se galti hui, India ne apni galtiyon se apne aap ko alien banaya. Occupation force ke taur pe India ko pesh kiya ja sakta hai, jo cheezein hui hain. Lekin Kashmir is not an occupied territory, apni marzi se hamare saath aaye hue hain,” he said. (“This is not an occupation. It is another matter if someone chooses to use the occupation term. But no, that is not correct. You can say we have mishandled. India has made mistakes, and its mistakes have, in the process, alienated itself. Because of what has happened, India is being presented as an occupation force. But Kashmir is not an occupied territory, it came to us of its own free will.”)
On the apprehension in the Valley that there were moves to tinker with Articles 370 and 35A, Malik said “there is nothing to worry about”. “It is possible that we have not kept the promises made at that time but I guarantee that on 370 and 35A, and I have faith in the Indian judiciary, there is nothing to worry about.”
Stating that his position on Articles 370 and 35A had been endorsed by the Centre, he said: “I am not an elected representative but my stand is that arguments on 35A should be deferred until there is an elected government in power. But even in Himachal (Pradesh) and the (states of) North East, you cannot buy land. Ye kaun sa bada gunaah hai (How is this a major wrong)? These are issues raised due to political reasons.”
He said holding a dialogue is not his mandate or agenda, but he has to create an environment in which the Centre can initiate talks with political parties in Kashmir and with the Hurriyat if they come to the table “without the condition of involving Pakistan”. “I don’t have the authority to start a political conversation with the Hurriyat but if they want to come and talk about anything else, my gates are open. I have respect for them but I cannot discuss any issue with them. Kashmir ke maamle mein toh Dilli hi baat karegi unse (only Delhi will discuss Kashmir with them).”
“But the condition of Hurriyat, that if Pakistan comes, we will talk, toh hum panchayati nahin karwane wale hain (we will not mediate if Hurriyat insists on the condition of involving Pakistan in talks),” he said. Underlining that dialogue is the only way forward to resolve the Kashmir issue, Malik said that talks with not just the mainstream parties and the Hurriyat but, “if terrorists wish to nominate someone and say, this person will speak on our behalf and and he keeps his gun down and talks, he should also be spoken to. No one will talk while killings are on”.
On the urban local body and panchayat elections in the state, he said: “Only about 17 per cent of the voters are likely to remain unrepresented. At all other places, there will be voting.” He said the boycott of the polls by the NC and PDP was “political posturing” for the assembly elections. “However, I will make another final appeal to the mainstream parties, that if they are not contesting, so be it, but do not discourage people from voting,” he said.
Ruling out the possibility of government formation in the state, the Governor said: “I can guarantee that there will be no underhand government in Jammu and Kashmir. Elections will be held and whoever is elected will form the government. First, Parliament elections; it is possible that Parliament and assembly may take place together or may be later. I don’t have the brief to provide a timetable for that. However, the election will be fair. There will be an election, no government will be formed resulting from defection while I am in office.”
“While Narendra Modi is Prime Minister, Jammu and Kashmir will see no political machinations. Elections will be absolutely fair.” He said the perception that security forces will be given a free hand during Governor’s rule is incorrect, “In my discussions with all three GOCs, no one has asked for a free hand.” He said he is in favour of “wiping out” militancy, not militants.
“Mai unko maarne ke paksh mein nahin hoon. Militants ko nahin maarna hai, humko militancy ko maarna hai. Logon ki nigah mein militancy ko useless banana hai, ki iski koi zaroorat nahin hai (I am not in favour of killing them. We have to kill militancy, not militants. It has to be made useless in the eyes of the people.) You kill one militant, and five more will join. But I’m not for that.”
“I want to tell them respectfully that the dreams they have been shown in the last 15-20 years are unrealistic. From Sheikh (Abdullah) Sahab’s time until now — Azaadi or Pakistan — I want to say to them that they are not even one-fourth of the LTTE. The LTTE had such a committed cadre that 12-year-old girls would fight barefoot in the jungles. They got money and weapons from 14 nations. When they could not take over a country, it is not possible here,” Malik said.