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'Kashmir can't be reduced to a lab experiment'

By ARCHANA MASIH
Last updated on: August 07, 2020 11:29 IST
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'Nobody can control Kashmir and what happens here.'
'Even a government with a full sweeping majority and strong mandate hasn't been able to control the state.'

IMAGE: Security personnel at a temporary checkpost in Srinagar due to the strict curfew imposed to maintain law and order on the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, August 4, 2020. All Photographs: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

"The ruling dispensation is obviously trying to do its own little experiment by disempowering people, but things haven't worked to their favour either."

"A year ago, they probably hadn't even imagined that instead of being a bilateral issue, Kashmir will become a trilateral issue after how China has taken over land and pastures in Ladakh."

Iltija Mufti, daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti whose detention was extended by yet another three months, speaks to Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

 

What change have you seen in the state a year the abrogation of Article 370 today?

I see no middle ground policy.

Most of the people of the state have questions about the accession of Kashmir to India because the atmosphere has become sinister and poisonous.

You can understand the sense of insecurity that every Kashmiri has because on August 5, the same day as the scrapping of J&K's special status, the prime minister is laying the foundation of the Ram temple where a mosque was demolished.

He is not the prime minister of one sect or one religion. He is the prime minister of the entire country, but what signal is he sending to Kashmiris?

By going there on August 5, he will be endorsing the demolition and that will only increase the sense of insecurity in Jammu and Kashmir which is the only Muslim majority state.

People of J&K already feel isolated and alienated. There is a trust deficit and I don't know how the government is going to breach that trust deficit. I doubt they are interested.

My mother is a politician, it's her job is to go out, meet people, but she has not been allowed to do so and is not even allowed to speak!

She's been booked under a draconian act and jailed indefinitely.

IMAGE: A deserted street in Srinagar due to the strict curfew imposed to maintain law and order on the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, August 04, 2020.

How is your mother spending time after returning home and under house arrest?

She reads a lot and watches a lot of Al Jazeera because most Indian news channels are like an extension of the propaganda arm of the government.

We feel very relieved to have her home because till March she was in detention in another location.

How do you see the future of politics in the state?

Everybody asks me this question and I tell them that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be reduced to a lab experiment.

The ruling dispensation is obviously trying to do its own little experiment by disempowering people, but things haven't worked to their favour either.

A year ago, they probably hadn't even imagined that instead of being a bilateral issue, Kashmir will become a trilateral issue after how China has taken over land and pastures in Ladakh.

You ask how will politics change?

Nobody can control Kashmir and what happens here. Even a government with a full sweeping majority and strong mandate, hasn't been able to control the state.

A lot of things have changed and honestly the BJP does not have any sense of control over it. They know themselves that militancy has only increased.

People ask about elections, but even if a party got 80 seats, what can it do?

Earlier, in the order of precedence, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir had greater powers than any chief minister in India.

The state's assembly could make its own laws and the state had special status. Now the chief minister of the state will only be at par with a chief secretary and report to the lieutenant governor. It is the other way around in other states.

Kashmiris have been stripped naked.

Tomorrow, when restrictions are relaxed, you don't really know what is going to happen here. Revolutions happen when huge changes happen in society. Do you think Gandhiji would have asked the British, 'Is it ok if I protest now?'

I am not saying anybody here is Gandhiji, but political leaders who brought changes to the state will never get permission to do what they think is right for their people.

IMAGE: Security personnel in Srinagar due to the strict curfew imposed to maintain law and order on the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, August 4, 2020.

Your mother was detained away from home for 7 months -- what were some of the challenges this past year?

It has been traumatic for every Kashmiri. It would be very selfish and self-centered to just talk about what I endured. Every Kashmir has been in pain which has increased the sense of anxiety and uncertainty.

A year ago, a few days before the abrogation, speculation was mounting about what's going to happen. People had a feeling that something big was coming their way which was not going to be nice.

This past year, we have seen a double lockdown. Our economy has suffered heavy losses. We've been in lockdown since last August 2019. Then the entire world was brought to its knees by an unseen virus which made things worse.

Kids weren't able to go to school since August 2019, and since March there has been this lockdown because of covid.

Obviously, covid is also an excuse to crack down on people and curtail their rights even more.

In these trying, tough and turbulent times, Kashmiris have had solace only in religion and humour. It's very natural that when you are upset you turn to religion and humour, but even that has been denied to us.

Our own Jama Masjid has been shut, and as far as humour is concerned, an innocuous meme could result in an FIR under UAPA if they feel you're making fun of something even if you're just being sarcastic.

All these things have pushed Kashmiris to the wall.

IMAGE: A deserted street in Srinagar due to the strict curfew imposed to maintain law and order on the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, August 4, 2020.

Do you believe statehood will be restored?

This ploy of dangling statehood is a psychological, sinister ploy. They have a proper agenda to disempower people, break them financially, emotionally, psychologically and inflict as much trauma as they can.

There's also a demographic angle to it. Last year when I spoke about it, people thought I am being paranoid, but look at the way they are issuing domicile certificates to outsiders? What is the rush?

Why do you have to issue certificates in the middle of a pandemic?

It's an extraordinary health situation where the economies of countries all over the world are collapsing and this is the government's priority right now?

Clearly, what they are engineering is a cultural genocide. I'm very strongly using those words 'cultural genocide'.

We know they want to wipe out our culture and sense of identity in 10 to 15 years. They don't want the state to be what it is like right now.

Till they don't achieve what they have in mind, they will not restore statehood. They are going to get parties to beg for statehood. I think that's the plan.

It is their psyche to make you beg, even for the small things. In the past one year, we haven't had 3G, many don't have WiFi connections at home, not everyone can afford it, while data is very cheap. But we don't have that.

Do we have to beg them for everything? Why?

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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