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'Kashmiri Politicians Have Been Killed For Upholding The Indian Flag'

May 13, 2024 10:04 IST

'No Indian politician has been killed in India for upholding the Constitution except for Kashmiri mainstream politicians.'
'Yet they call us terrorist or militant.'

IMAGE: Waheed ur Rehman Para, in black, third from left, along with People's Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti and others offers prayers at a roadshow in Srinagar, May 6, 2024. Photograph: Umar Ganie for

Waheed ur Rehman Para, the People's Democratic Party's Srinagar candidate, draws crowds during his roadshows across the constituency.

"Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are one blood. We have one DNA, but politics has damaged us," Para tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ in the concluding part of the interview.

Is it 'my way or the highway' when it comes to talks?

The central government will understand this with time, that whatever you are seeing in Kashmir is through control.

We tell the central government that we are not anti-India but our approaches are different.

We follow the Constitutional framework. We subscribe to the democratic framework and we subscribe to the idea of India.

And all we want is to restore the dignity of Kashmiris within that ambit (of the Constitution).

We are not entitled to what other Indians are, like for the last 10 years we didn't have elections.

In every jail in India you will see a Kashmiri detained.

I was detained for three years on terror-related charges. I had nothing to do with stone pelting or terrorism. Yet I was incarcerated and tortured. I was kept naked in jail. Every kind of torture was experimented on me that they do not do on a militant too.

And I think the reason is there being a huge trust deficit not in Kashmir, but in Delhi.

The Government of India and the people of India need to realise that Kashmir is not just an issue of elections. It is a human issue and we see ourselves as a part of this country.

Our dignity has to be first and most paramount.

But the prism through which Indians see, or I must say Hindutva, is that Kashmiri Muslims drove out Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1990. So why are they expecting that we need to have compassion?

I agree that there is a narrative against us as you mentioned. But the question you need to ask yourself is that we are the only Muslim state and Muslim majority population in India.

We stayed back in India though being the biggest Muslim population state whereas Muslims who were a minority in India left their respective state to Pakistan.

By staying in India we made this country look diverse and beautiful. In that sense our loyalty can never be questioned.

We are more empathetic towards Kashmiri Pandits. We want Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir.

This guy sitting next to me in the car is Mohit and he is my friend. He is a Kashmiri Pandit and my chief agent (for elections). He is from Tral. He has been fighting my case for the last five years. These things do not reflect in the media.

Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are one blood. We have one DNA, but politics has damaged us.

Why are stories like your friendship with Mohit not highlighted?

It is because hate is hailing in the country. Hate has become the political campaign now.

Hate means election and hate means mandate. The more you talk of hate, the more you become popular as a political leader in India today.

And the worse thing is that everything is happening at the cost of the social fabric. We want harmony and not hate. We want people to co-exist and not create exclusion and division within society.

Do you ever think about why you were tortured, why it happened to you?

It is because I am a Kashmiri Muslim. It has happened in the past and it is continuously happening to all of us.

We are not politically big in terms of population. We are small in number. We have done so much for India and yet our loyalty is always questioned.

No Indian politician has been killed in India for upholding the Indian Constitution except for Kashmiri mainstream politicians. Kashmiri politicians have been killed for upholding the Indian flag. Yet they call us terrorist or militant.

What we want is that the youth of Kashmir should be given enough chance to reclaim their lives. Even if they may have cases against them, Indian democracy has to be big enough to address the pain and trauma of Kashmiris. Suppression will not work.

We are not promoting violence, but we are saying can we live together in a dignified way, by living together, by showing acceptance and tolerance.

There may be regional aspiration in Kashmir, but that does not mean we are anti-India or anti-Hindu or anti-anyone. We want the Constitution to stay and the idea of India to stay. This gives us more safety.

After being held on terror charges and kept naked in jail, what did it take you to come out of such pain and start believing in Indian democracy again?

Nothing can be done to break our resolve. The more they suppress us, you understand they are trying to desperately dismantle your faith in the Constitution of India. Dismantle your faith in the institutions of India. The more they suppress us, the more it makes us firm that we need to be consistent.

What about emotional trauma?

It breaks you emotionally for sure and brings you closer to God and religion. It brings you closer to your identity. You feel more Kashmiri.

You understand what has happened in the past. You understand the pain of Kashmir more once you go to jail and face torture.

I would have never understood the pain of the youth of Kashmir unless I was jailed. I was kept naked in jail. I was kept in solitary confinement for two months in subzero temperatures.

Did you find out why they did this to you?

I don't know the answer till this date. It is like the idea of master and slave. They feel we are not equal and we are slaves. This is the mentality of the bureaucracy (in Kashmir). They don't feel Kashmiris are Indians.

When they interrogate you there is a feeling of prejudice against us. They don't understand this place but because they rule us they think they are masters.

There are political reasons too, like after the abrogation of Article 370 if you don't fall in line they will make you fall in line.

It is also done to people like me because they are able to send a message to others and scare them.

I was close to Mehboobaji. I was youth president of the PDP. And if I get such treatment by the State, the message goes to people, 'Iske saath aisa ho sakta hai tohi kisi ke saath kuch bhi ho sakta hai (If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone).'

I worked with the chief minister closely and I was praised by then home minister of India (Rajnath Singh) in front of thousands of people prior to my arrest.

They made an example out of me to send a message to others. My arrest was to instil fear and defeat in the minds of the youth of Kashmir.