‘Kashmiris are not afraid of Indian forces. Too many Kashmiris have given their lives for them to accept a relationship by force.’
SRINAGAR — Kashmiris will not forget Delhi’s repeated ‘betrayals,’ especially that of former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, contends veteran Congress leader Prof. Saifuddin Soz. The former union minister also believes that the relationship between Kashmir and India has soared to a point where the Indian dispensation at the Centre sees Kashmiris as enemies.
In an interview with Mountain Ink, Soz said that since the abrogation of Special Status, he has been filled with anxiety, rancour and hesitancy.
While the former union minister believes that the Government of India is extremely hateful and fascist, he blames the local mainstream parties for the current situation in Kashmir.
Questioning National Conference’s working relationship with New Delhi, he asked: “Why couldn’t Kashmir’s grand old party develop a workable relationship with the Centre? Agreed that all the local political stakeholders have to work within a system, but the relationship with Delhi could have been stronger.”
Insisting that Delhi is also responsible for betrayals in Kashmir, Soz said that the union governments have betrayed Kashmiris time and again. “Kashmiris don’t forget betrayals like that of Jawaharlal Nehru with Sheikh Abdullah or how PDP got RSS-BJP to Kashmir.” Sheikh Abdullah, India’s biggest ally in Kashmir, died a despondent man, he said.
The seven-time Member of Parliament maintained that the relationship with people cannot be built with military boots. “One cannot have a relationship with the people of Kashmir using the army and paramilitary forces. Kashmiris are not afraid of Indian forces. Too many people have given their lives in Kashmir for them to accept a relationship by force.”
Lamenting the aggravation of the situation in mainland India, Soz argued the establishment in Delhi is marching on with an agenda of a Hindu nation. Kashmir and Kashmiris can never be a part of that idea. Sheikh Abdullah chose India over a Muslim state Pakistan because of Nehru’s secular vision for India, which currently feels threatened.
About the role of the Congress party as a strong opposition, he feels congress has lost the fervour of a strong opposition. But, Sonia Gandhi has learnt her ropes in politics from Indira Gandhi very closely and then Rajiv Gandhi. She has the ability to get the house in order even if it may seem scattered right now. “In many ways, National Conference and Congress have faced similar fates but because of Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru, these parties will always stand the test of time. Congress is India’s only great hope from becoming a Fascist State.”
Speaking about the policy changes that the Government of India imposed in Kashmir, Soz asserted these changes might have affected the positions of local leaders but the National Conference still holds a strong bastion in Kashmir because they will always get votes in the name of Sheikh Abdullah’s legacy. PDP and other new players also hold some small pockets of influence. New Delhi cannot change that even if it is able to manipulate certain things on the ground politically.
He, however, said that the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration as a party and its policies are not acceptable to Kashmiris. “It is a combination of individual parties with individual agendas.”
Soz believes that the National Conference holds the key to unlocking the problems of Kashmir. “The National Conference will always be the power player. Altaf Bukhari and Sajad Lone might get some seats if elections happen, but the National Conference will hold the key. Some combination with the national conference will be pivotal. To this day, the National conference hasn’t done anything concrete on the abrogation of the Special Status neither has PDP, and Kashmiris cannot compromise on that.”
On the ongoing political stalemate, he observed, the stalemate is about statehood right now which is just a bargaining chip created by BJP. We should focus on getting back our internal autonomy. Our constitutional relationship with New Delhi will never be a straightforward affair unless our internal autonomy is restored, our own constituent assembly, our constitution and the promise on which accession was made.
Soz rejected the constitutional changes that the Government of India made including the introduction of domicile laws. “We are the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir as per our constitution and the constitution of India. Both books are to be respected. We as political voices should get together and fight for internal autonomy no matter what happens. Our coming generations will know that we fought for what was rightfully ours, otherwise all the political players will lose the people and their faith. A common Kashmiri will accept nothing less than internal autonomy.”
Commenting on the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover and its implications in Kashmir, Soz said, there are already signs that the Taliban have an eye on Kashmir. They are going to make their presence felt in the subcontinent. They could stir up some trouble in Kashmir. “I wish it doesn’t come to that. Kashmiris should be left alone and not become a part of this situation.”
About China’s intervention in Kashmir, the Congress veteran said China is an important factor in world politics and more so in the subcontinent. China will always ally with Pakistan. So India should take notice of this and try to better its relationship with Pakistan. A hostile Pakistan with the help of China is not a good thing for India.
Meher Qadri is a former staff writer at the Mountain Ink.