“Today Kashmiris do not feel Indian and do not want to be Indian … They are slaves … They would rather have the Chinese rule them … every Kashmiri believes the new domicile laws are intended to create a hindu majority … the gap between Kashmiris and the rest of the country is wider than ever before and growing … Modi deliberately deceived me in August 2019 but I will fight to restore the dignity of Kashmiris till my last breath … the Abdullahs and Muftis have come together in Kashmir’s greater interest and now Mehbooba is politically close to Omar and me; I speak to her frequently”: Farooq Abdullah, President National Conference, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Lok Sabha MP.
In a powerful and passionate interview with frequent flashes of anger and displays of emotion, Farooq Abdullah has said that at this moment the Kashmiri people do not feel and do not want to be Indian. He even went so far as to say that they would rather be ruled by the Chinese, a point he reiterated when he was asked if he really meant this. Dr. Abdullah also said Kashmiris are slaves and treated like second class citizens.
In a 44-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, which will go up on The Wire’s website between 5 and 6 p.m. today (23/9), Farooq Abdullah, the President of the National Conference and a former three time chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said it was complete rubbish for the BJP to claim that the people of Kashmir have accepted the August 2019 changes just because there have been no protests. He said if the soldiers on every street and Section 144 were to be lifted people will come out in their tens of lakhs. Dr. Abdullah told The Wire that the new domicile law was intended to flood the Valley with hindus and create a hindu majority. He said this has further embittered the Kashmiri people.
Asked by The Wire how Kashmiris view the Central government and, in particular, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Dr. Abdullah said they were deeply disillusioned. He said they had no trust in the Central government. The trust that once bound Kashmir to the rest of the country has completely snapped.
Dr. Abdullah revealed details of his meeting with the Prime Minister roughly 72 hours before August 5, 2019 when the constitutional changes in Kashmir were announced. He had met the Prime Minister seeking assurances about the continuation of Articles 370 and 35A. He asked the Prime Minister why there were so many troops in the Valley and whether this was because of any perceived military threat. Dr. Abdullah suggested the Prime Minister deliberately went out of his way to give him the impression the massive increase in troops was for security purposes. He said the Prime Minister did not say a word about Articles 370 and 35A. Consequently, Dr. Abdullah emerged from that meeting believing the two Articles were not in danger. When asked he agreed that the Prime Minister had mislead and deceived him.
Dr. Abdullah told The Wire that in August 2019, when the constitutional changes were suddenly announced, the National Conference and all other mainstream political parties stood badly discredited in Kashmiri eyes. Speaking of himself he said he seemed to have fallen between two stools. The Indian government viewed him as a traitor and arrested him. Kashmiris, on the other hand, saw him as a servant of India and said things like ‘serves Abdullah right’ and chided him and taunted him for having said Bharat Mata Ki Jai. This left him deeply shaken and upset. However, after 7-8 months in detention his standing and that of his party and other mainstream parties has been considerably restored in Kashmiri eyes. People now realize they are not “servants of India”.
Dr. Abdullah told The Wire that the National Conference and, in fact, all the other parties that had come together to issue the Gupkar Declaration of August 2019, which was reiterated on August 22nd this year, were committed to restoring the dignity of Kashmiris. He said this meant reinstating Articles 370 and 35A and restoring statehood. He said he would fight for this – but always peacefully – till his last breath.
Dr. Abdullah said that he had faith in the Supreme Court and hoped that they would stop postponing the petition his party has brought and hear it expeditiously. In the interview he, in fact, appealed to Supreme Court judges to hear the constitutional case quickly.
Asked by The Wire why he had not raised this matter during the present session of parliament, which ends on Wednesday the 23rd, he said he wasn’t given time. He said he had gone to meet the Speaker, along with MPs from Congress, Trinamool, DMK and the Communist Parties, and the Speaker had assured them time for a discussion would be allocated. But that never happened. Asked if he believed the government had intervened and told the Speaker not to give time, Dr. Abdullah said he did not know but agreed the Speaker had not kept his word.
Dr. Abdullah told The Wire that in the greater interest of Kashmir the Mufti and Abdullah families have buried their past differences and come together. He said today Mehbooba Mufti was politically close to both his son Omar and himself. He said I am in touch with her frequently every week.
In one of the more angry moments of the interview Dr. Abdullah asked why has Mehbooba Mufti not been released. “Is she a criminal?” he thundered.
Asked if her incarceration has begun to affect her, Dr. Abdullah asked a question in return: “How can it not? She is a human being after all.”
Dr. Abdullah told The Wire that whether the National Conference will contest the next state elections is a decision that will be taken, first, democratically within the National Conference itself and he, as President, will not impose his personal thinking. However, Dr. Abdullah added that the decision will also be taken in concert with all the other Gupkar parties.
Dr. Abdullah said his son Omar Abdullah’s announcement in a recent Indian Express article that he would not contest elections whilst Kashmir remains a union territory is only Omar’s personal decision. It is not the position of the National Conference. However, he added that if Omar does not wish to contest that is his right. Of himself he said he would abide by whatever decision the party takes collectively.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Farooq Abdullah’s interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire. Although not inaccurate it’s recounted from memory. Please see the full interview for a better understanding of the many points made by Dr. Abdullah as well as the strength and passion with which he has spoken. Often the depth of his emotions, including his anger and anguish, emerge from the way he has spoken and not simply the content of what he has said. Rarely, if ever, has a top Indian politician spoken with such power and passion. The full interview will go up on The Wire’s website between 5 and 6 p.m. today (23/9).