Sitting in her heavily fortified house on ‘Gupkar Road’, overlooking picturesque hills of Srinagar, Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed , president and charismatic crowd-puller of People’s Democratic Party - the main opposition party in Jammu and Kashmir - appears very confident. As her father, former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed briefly walks in, she lashes out at Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for what she says “complete lack of understanding of Kashmir”, “inaptitude”, “immaturity” and “I will not learn attitude”. “My way or highway” is his mindset, she says throwing up her hands. Excerpts of an interview with Deepak K Upreti.
What led to the current unrest?
Not any single reason. The unrest was fuelled by maladministration, failure of law and order. Things were returning to normal in the valley; we had seen 60 per cent voter turnout in 2008 polls.
Is there a parallel to the 2008 unrest during PDP-Congress rule?
In 2008 when two-three people were killed, we revoked Amarnath land order and sacrificed the government. The prime minister opened the Muzaffarabad trade route. People’s strength was acknowledged.
People pinned high hopes on Omar, what happened all of a sudden?
People thought he is young, would do well. PDP’s six-year tenure saw lesser human rights violations, good administration, good web with Pakistan and that country with the Central government. When Vajpayee came here, a 50,000-60,000 crowd greeted him. The current situation is a combination of many factors. As the Army chief has said, there was no consolidation of gains. When you run a government, you need to have development vision and also on how to reconcile the situation on ground vis-à-vis New Delhi.
Is Omar’s identification with New Delhi a factor behind his unpopularity?
No, it is not that. My father was home minister of the country. He was very close to the former prime minister, Mrs Gandhi. But my father’s mental make-up was made here. Unfortunately, Omar rose in the company of RSS, NDA..., he has not lived in Kashmir. His baptism was in NDA…, you cannot serve national interest at the cost of Kashmir. His mental make-up is similar to someone brought up in Delhi, who finds Kashmiris hawkish, scoffs at Article 370 (of Constitution granting special status to Kashmir).
But he is the son of Farooq Abdullah, has roots in Kashmir?
It is not there. When you join politics, it matters from which environment you evolve. He was minister twice, where? Even now, when he is ruling Kashmir, his heart is in Delhi. His thinking is like anybody in Delhi.
What about his thinking?
It is so bizarre. When a lad died in a river, he asked why his friends did not rescue him. He does not know what it is like when the Army and police chase protestors. He was not part of all that. I have been part of protests. You need to be around mixing and developing your own thinking.
You mean that would have impacted?
Yes, his attitude is: “My way or highway.” I never said during my tenure there was no human rights violation. Some incidents were very bad. But the way we tried to deal with it was different; we accepted responsibility. My father and I apologised to the people unconditionally.
What sparked the recent violence?
General dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the governance.
Does Omar connect with the people?
A deaf and dumb person died near his house and Omar said the Army thought he was a Fidayeen (guerilla). First pre-judge an incident, then order an inquiry.
Omar has admitted his mistakes.
He does not understand anything. Our national (media) channels were very nice to him and must be accountable for the situation here.
The chief minister has said stone pelting will not solve Kashmir problem.
He has been giving undue importance to stone pelting. My motorcade was also pelted with stones.
Has he not delivered on his promises?
He made many promises before he became CM. When we lowered the qualification for a constable’s job to 10th standard, he said he would make it 8th standard; responding to our government’s success in installing electricity meters, he said: “meter todo heater lagao”. He had the cheek to claim, “Bijlee ithni hain ki transformer jal jata hai!”
What about the Home minister’s comment that LeT is behind the unrest?
How do you justify killing of 15 people. It is an old thing played out at national level.
Is CRPF to be blamed?
This government is confused. PDP adopted healing touch policy. Mufti sahib told security forces to go after militants but not to disturb people, stop checking ID cards, not to humiliate and no ‘hands up’. A lady during PDP rule slapped an Army man - a telling message. Mufti was their man (Kashmiri people’s) in Delhi, not Delhi’s man in Kashmir (like Omar). Someone rightly said: ‘Omar has now only to wear uniform’.
Would you ask Omar to step down?
He should accept his moral responsibility. There is a time for everything. We sacrificed our government; if we didn’t, we would have been discredited.
Did the Centre help the situation?
The Prime Minister only discussed Amarnath Yatra, which is being taken care of by people here. They are not reaching out to people.
Why did you abstain from all party meeting?
People voted Omar to power. Why should I be party to a discredited government?
What are your views on hardline Hurriyat leader Geelani. Is he fishing in troubled waters?
I can’t say. But he has a constituency here. Anybody may fish in troubled waters.
Omar and Rahul Gandhi are learning the ropes.Rahul Gandhi is meeting with people,
he is patient. Rahul is not playing to the gallery. Omar has not learnt from him.