'Chief minister is ruling through the barrel of a gun'

'Chief minister is ruling through the barrel of a gun'

'Chief minister is ruling through the barrel of a gun'

Opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti is one of the few female politicians from Kashmir who is recognised across the country. In an interview with Zulfikar Majid, the firebrand leader of the opposition in J&K Assembly talks about her party stand on revocation of AFSPA, prevailing situation in Kashmir and has a word of caution for fellow countrymen:

With militant attacks on the rise in Kashmir, do you think it is right time to revoke AFSPA?
Situation somehow seems to be sliding back with violence and fidayeen attacks on rise. But why should Kashmiris pay because the state government has failed. People of the state can’t be held hostage to unilateral opinion of security agencies. For us (PDP) revocation of AFSPA is part of peace process.

There is a general feeling that National Conference and PDP are playing politics over AFSPA revocation issue? How would you defend your party?
When we were in power (2002-2008) we had formally written to the Prime Minister and discussions were on. But unfortunately that time, due to Amarnath land row agitation (2008),  things didn’t materialise. PDP took up the issue of AFSPA removal in 2007, and it was part of the government’s policy then.

What is your take on present situation in Kashmir?
There is a managed peace in Kashmir. The Chief Minister asks for revocation of AFSPA but on the other hand he is ruling through the barrel of a gun. You are closing all options of civilised protests. If people maintained peace in 2011 and 2012, government failed to build on that.

Do you think Afzal Guru’s hanging is cause for surge in recent violence?
The way Afzal Guru was hanged has increased alienation. It was discriminatory, picking him up from serial number 28 and hanging him. The state government facilitated the hanging. Denying family the chance to perform last rites was very proactive. It has substantiated thought process in Kashmir that there are powers in Delhi who have done injustice with people of Kashmir.

The recently passed anti-rape bill has diluted AFSPA to an extent. How do you see this development?
I appreciate that. But whatever laws we have at present they aren’t equally applied to Kashmir. You have Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh’s killers on death row before Afzal Guru, but Afzal being Kashmiri was hanged first. We see everyday naxalites killing more security force personnel but you don’t have AFSPA there.

You want to say that New Delhi isn’t treating Kashmiris equally?
When they (Government of India) say Kashmir is soul of Indian nation, integral part of India blah blah..., then please treat us equally. It is not only government which is discriminating against Kashmir but majority of public in India does not understand Kashmir problem. While on the one hand leaders in Delhi glorify democratic system of the country, on the other hand they are making no bones about continuing to resort to force alone in the only state that added to country’s secular credentials and ethnic diversity.

On what basis do you make the claim?
(LTTE chief) Prabakaran’s son was killed in 2009 by Sri Lankan Army and people in India are up in arms against that country. They aren’t even our citizens. But when eight-year-old Sameer Rah was killed in Batamaloo here (during 2010 summer unrest), nobody in the country cried for him. They have to feel pain of Kashmiris first. Hearts have to be reconciled first.

How would you view situation in Kashmir post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan?
That is a bigger picture. But at present NC has stakes in violence and peoples’ alienation. By facilitating Afzal’s hanging they made Congress happy. The way young boys are being harassed and people are being tortured, curfews and corruption seem to be taking us back to 2002.