New Delhi unwittingly encouraging separatism in Kashmir, says Prof Saifuddin Soz
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz says the Union Government and BJP are unwittingly encouraging separatism in Jammu and Kashmir, in an interview to Haroon Reshi
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Are you now allowed to move around or you are still under house detention?
I am told I am a free man now. I was verbally informed that I had been released from detention. Earlier, they (authorities) had told the Supreme Court that I was not under detention. They now seem to have officially released me after keeping me under house arrest for more than a year.
What is your assessment of the present situation in the erstwhile state?
A group of bureaucrats is ruling us here. Delhi does not seem to have any policy about Jammu and Kashmir. It is groping in the dark. The abrogation of Article 370 can never be acceptable to the people of Kashmir. At present, people are subdued but they are angry. But GOI does not care about all this. I think it is because they (BJP) have not been a party to build this relation between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. The people of Kashmir had joined a secular India but India is not quite a secular country now.
Many here believe that forthcoming District Development Councils will strengthen bureaucratic rule in the UT and there will be no need for an assembly once these DDCs are elected. Do you agree?
I think the central government is not enthusiastic about holding assembly elections here in the near future. As far as the DDC elections are concerned, parties like National Conference (NC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) have said that their workers are being stopped from campaigning on the pretext of security threat. All others who belong to BJP are free to run their poll campaign. BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain, who were recently here to promote their party, were allowed to go wherever they wanted. But the local mainstream workers are being stopped. They want to impose BJP in Kashmir without knowing its repercussions.
What would be these ‘repercussions’?
Repercussions have already started showing up. Separatism is growing exponentially here. However, they (BJP) are turning a blind eye to the situation.
Critics of the ‘People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’(PAGD), formed to struggle jointly for the restoration of Article 370 and statehood, say if these parties were sincere, they would not have jumped in the fray for the DDC polls at this point of time…
Passing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill,2019, unilaterally and without the consent and consultation of the people was an undemocratic action. The regional parties and the people are not a party to that undemocratic process but they want to avail the little democratic space that is available in terms of the DDC elections. I think the decision to take part in these elections was a wise one.
Congress had initially joined PAGD but has now disassociated itself from this alliance after the Home Minister termed it as a ‘Gang’ and ‘an unholy alliance’…
Congress is a national party. It has its limitations. Regional parties are free to raise regional aspirations but Congress cannot be expected to support all regional issues in every region.
Many people blame the Congress, saying that had the UPA government implemented recommendations made by their own interlocutors for Kashmir, the situation would have changed for the better. What do you think?
Diluting autonomy was the wrong thing to do. Dr. Karan Singh once said in an interview that “If the Union of India has been consistent on anything in relation to Jammu and Kashmir it was the dilution of the autonomy”. Weakening 370 was a mistake, but here it has been abrogated by the BJP. As a Kashmiri I agree our party has committed several mistakes in Kashmir.
A common perception in Kashmir is that recent amendments to the land laws in Kashmir by the union home ministry are aimed to change the demography in J&K. How do you see these new laws?
I think people in Kashmir are genuinely apprehensive about this question. The designs behind changing the laws related to land can be to change the demography. They want the demographic change to occur because they think that will be the permanent solution to the problem but if they do that, they will lose Kashmir altogether.
The Home Minister on the floor of the parliament had said that India would take back Gilgit Baltistan. Do you see any confrontation happening in this region in the near future?
The Home Minister had indulged in tall talk. China is sitting in Ladakh. This government does not want to dislodge China from Ladakh. They do not dare to respond to the situation.
What do you think the central government should do at this point to restore peace and normalcy in J&K?
The present situation demands a dialogue between the central government and the mainstream parties. But unfortunately, they are talking against mainstream parties, day in and day out. By pushing the mainstream parties to the wall, they are promoting separatism here.
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