Aug 05 decision negates everything symbolised by J&K’s accession in 1947: Sajad Lone
Says mainstream is accused of being ‘too Indian in Kashmir’ and ‘not enough Indian in Delhi’
Srinagar: Peoples Conference president Sajad Gani Lone Thursday said that Article 370, Article 35-A and the whole concept of a special status reflected the soul of Delhi’s relationship with Kashmir.
In his first interview after August 05, 2019 and his release, Lone told a local news agency KNS that the accession of J&K in 1947 “symbolised consent and also symbolised secularism against a canvass of blood splattered communal riots. That was a ray of hope and negation of two nation theory.”
He further said that August 05, 2019 is the antithesis and negates everything that 1947 stood for. If 1947 marked the transition of the Kashmiri from ruled to the ruler, August 05 relegated Kashmiris back to the ruled entity, he said.
“In a space of one day from the politically most-empowered state of India you are relegated to a UT, brought under direct central rule and outsourced to a group of civil and police bureaucrats. What a come down?” Lone said.
Speaking about the long-term impact of August 05, 2019 decision, Sajad Lone told the news agency that August 05 did not end on August 05.
“It will be a long, long day spanning over years. In a political context we don’t know when and where it will end, least of all the architects of this dreadful day. Political events have a timeline. They are not stand-alone events. How August 05 will play out eventually, nobody knows. August 05 will have ramifications and we may have begun to see the unfolding of some of those ramifications,” he said.
He said as much as the architects of August 05 would want to congratulate themselves, the reality is that the developments have internationalised Kashmir as never before.
“I don’t think there is a single head of a state in the world post-August 05 who does not know that there is a place called Kashmir and there is a problem there. The diplomatic reaction was not anticipated by the architects. Such was the diplomatic intensity that the department of external affairs has almost been relegated to the department of Kashmir affairs. The tours by EU ambassadors and parliamentarians… what was that? Do they take you on such tours in their country?” Lone said.
Talking about the relevance of mainstream leadership post-August 05, Lone said: “Relevance and irrelevance are not absolute concepts. You can’t be either in perpetuity. The institutional sagacity of mainstream is too strong to be marauder. There may be a perception of relevance or irrelevance. But that is a fleeting perception and interim in nature. Basically irrelevance is a dynamic variable not static.”
He, however, admitted that there are seemingly insurmountable challenges that the mainstream is going to face in the short-run, adding, “Mainstream has to answer existential questions – who are they? Who do they represent – Delhi or Kashmir? Did they betray people of Kashmir or did Delhi betray the mainstream?”
He said that in Kashmir two distinct brands of politics are practiced viz. separatist, and mainstream. “I would say separatists claim to represent the aspirations, while mainstream tries to address the grievances. But there is an overlap. Mainstream is a blend of ideology and governance. Ideologically with all its nationalistically nuanced stands on Kashmir, it is seen as the unionist facet of the political spectrum.
“In layman terms they are called pro-India parties. What happened on August 05 was done by Delhi, which in local parlance means India. So by default what India did is attributed to the pro-India parties viz. the mainstream. There is an element of hilarity. Mainstream is accused of being too Indian in Kashmir and accused of being not enough Indian in Delhi. The discourse acceptable to Delhi is unacceptable to people and the discourse acceptable to people is unacceptable to Delhi,” he further said.
When asked about past association of the Kashmir-centric parties with BJP, Sajad Lone said that there would be many uncomfortable questions in the offing.
“I am not worried. You are human and can make decisions which retrospectively one may regret. What matters is what your intentions were. I too was in an alliance with the BJP. My answer would be that in the absence of a decisive mandate in 2014 the only common mandate across different political parties was the mandate for governance. And there was absolutely no space for ideological maneuvering. The government ended and that was the end of my association with them.
“If I had even a modicum of belief in the righteousness of what they did on August 05, I could have stayed on and associated with them. I chose not to. Nobody stopped me in 2014 and nobody could have stopped me in 2019. Both were my decisions,” he said.
“I will stay as long as I feel I am wanted by the people who support me. Not a day more. I possibly cannot abandon my core base as they have stuck to me through all phases of my political career, unless they want to say goodbye to me. If I just get up and leave that would be tantamount to betrayal.”
Commenting on his quitting separatist camp and joining mainstream politics, Lone said, “I have always believed in the power of economics to uplift people and even to resolve conflicts. And you could only practice economics in mainstream politics. There are some issues though where the perspectives of economic intervention differ.
“The view from Srinagar as I saw was that good economics will eventually lead us to dignified existence and that economically secure people will most likely make well-informed, rational decisions including in the context of the conflict in Kashmir.
“The view from Delhi or as it comes across is different. Economic intervention is supposed to be a tool to trade dignity and influence decision-making. That has made words like economics, development an anathema. And people are not to blame. That is how economics has been projected,” Lone said.
Commenting on the ‘Gupkar Declaration’, Lone said ‘there is no way that we can individually strive and struggle to espouse the cause of the people of J&K. It has to be a collective effort.
“The issue at hand is bigger than me and bigger than all of us collectively,” he said.
He said that all the signatories of Gupkar Declaration have unconditionally agreed that they will work under the leadership of Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
“He has the stature and the experience to lead us all. And we all believe that he will rise above the National Conference and our internecine battles of the past and instead lead us all. Mehbooba-ji despite being jailed ensured that the Gupkar Declaration became a reality. She has been the ex-chief minister of the state. Yet her opinion was firm that Dr Farooq Sahib should lead us all. Tarigami Sahib played a pivotal role too,” Lone said.
When asked what after Gupkar Declaration, Sajad Lone said: “We have to move forward. The whole collective effort will have to have a form and a structure. It has to have some organisational identity and some hierarchical structures for it to be able to deliver. The declaration is a good start. But we have to move on and start institutionalising the concept.”
He further said that the current circumstances have made Gupkar Declaration a reference point.
“It is a concept and concepts don’t vanish. The concept is bigger than all its constituent entities put together. Gupkar Declaration in its full form can make entities vanish but entities can’t make Gupkar Declaration vanish,” he said.
To a question on whether he and his party would take part if elections are announced, Lone said: “As on date all our decisions are subservient to collective leadership. We will do what the collective leadership decides.”
Sharing his jail experience post-August 05, he said that he got a lot of time to introspect and also lost lot of weight.
“We used to interact a lot with fellow inmates. Of course there were some problems. Some officers would bend their back backwards to humiliate all of us. I don’t know whether they were doing it on their own or they had general orders of humiliation. But they failed as we all had a good laugh at the pettiness of these officers who till the other day would take a knee for a good posting,” he said.
When asked about the rumours about some Kashmiri leaders meeting with BJP leadership in Delhi, Lone said, “I don’t have any information about any leader meeting anybody. But I fail to understand why can’t a Kashmiri leader meet any leader, whether from BJP or from any other party. What is this new diktat? Any leader is free to meet anybody personally or politically.
“I am of the opinion that once COVID shows signs of subsiding, we should send delegations to brief leaders of different parties including the ruling party. I am relatively a newcomer in mainstream politics. But some of our leaders have a national stature. We need to use that stature, that clout, to put forward the Kashmiri point of view. Sulking is not a strategy. We can’t just sit, sulk and sob. We have to go out there and strive and get back what is rightfully ours.”