‘Dialogue’ between political parties is marketed as a substitute for ‘directly engaging with people’: Sajad Lone

‘Reaching out to people different from dialogue between political parties, or with separatists’

The day a Kashmiri feels like an Indian, you have reached out to him’

‘PDP-BJP Govt didn’t fall due to ideology, they failed to deliver’

‘In Kashmir, death is a mere statistic now’

‘To deal with militancy, Government of India needs to create a single institution’

Srinagar: Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone during a discussion ‘Kashmir: The Way Forward‘, organised by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said that in a world of pretense, everyone is ‘pro-dialogue’ however no one really wants to do it.

“Constructive engagement is a bridge to cross, when we genuinely arrive at the situation,” he adding that dialogue, has been marketed as a substitute for directly engaging with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Dialogue has been marketed, through a well-oiled plan, as a substitute for directly engaging with the people of J&K. Reaching out to the people is incredibly different from the dialogue between political parties, or with separatists,” Lone said.

He added, “if you have a dialogue with the Pakistani Prime Minister that doesn’t solve all your issues in the state, as JK, at the end of the day, is a sum of many parts, and one of them is political. And we assume that a Kashmiri is a political robot and the first thing he thinks about, when he wakes up in the morning, is when will the Kashmir issue get resolved. No. He or she thinks about breakfast, then lunch, then about lack of economics.”

“When I say reach out to the people, it means that a Kashmiri should feel as Indian as any other in their own country. While I believe at this time, he doesn’t feel so. So the day he feels like that, I think you will have reached out to to him,” he said.

Lone pointed out that people talk about militants being killed, however, no one seems to be bothered about civilian killings.

“Nobody seems to care about that. Recently I was so happy to hear about the 1984 riots (when) a top leader was sentenced to life imprisonment. So let’s talk about 1987. All come together and rig an election which starts an armed insurgency. One hundred thousand people have died. Have you indicted anybody?” he asked.

“The day you will indict somebody, 50 percent of your problems will be solved. But you won’t. We know you won’t. So let’s stop pretending.”

Lone said that even at the level of corruption, we rarely see a big name being indicted.

“If you go to the Vigilance Department, you see people like Patwaris, Section officers, clerks… you rarely see a big name. There are hardly any politicians. You can take me, others, and see the source, where all this money has come from, in the last 50 years. And if there are dis-appropriate assets which they can’t justify, why can’t you put them behind bars. But does New Delhi have the guts to do it?,” Lone asked.

Replying to a question, if he is ‘New Delhi’s man’ in Kashmir, Lone said, “I am in the land of uncles and aunties. I am fighting them. It is there perception. When Omar (Abdullah) and Mehbooba (Mufti) were young, they would hold their respective Dad’s hands and meet an Uncle or an Aunty who might have been a senior officer in some big agency. So for them they were Uncles and Aunties, and they judge us very harshly…,” he said.

Lone further added, “so creating perceptions about people that ‘this is the King’s party’, ‘he has been a BJP ally’. Has Omar Abdullah not been (with the BJP)? Although he was the Foreign Minister, he would go across the world and tell people that nothing is wrong in Kashmir. And the reason he walked out (of NDA) was not because of internal autonomy but (becuase) his father was not made the Vice President of India. Do we ever talk about it? No.”

“But Sajad Lone has to be punished for being the Minister for Animal Husbandry and then for Social Welfare while as the chief minister does not have to be punished for the same. At times I believe, whether there is any space for a separatist to join the mainstream,” he said.

And the reasons for that, Lone believes are the media, the establishment, politicians “who are all the same.”

“It takes a lot of courage to stand up to them. Politically (and) physically you are at risk. They call me a dynast. My father was in jail for eight years. I was hung upside down… you call this dynasty. I wish them the same dynasty. I was never coronated. I was considered a joker, I am not one now,” he said.

Speaking about the fall of PDP-BJP Government, Lone said that it didn’t fail because of ideological differences but the government was not able to deliver.

“There were no ideological differences, not at least in the cabinet. The government just failed to deliver and when you fail to deliver, you bring in ideological differences,” Lone said.

While talking about the erosion of the Autonomy of JK, Lone said that 90 percent of the erosion was done by the Congress.

“We are going to bring a white paper on it very soon. Congress, in coalition, at times with the NC and PDP, eroded it bit-by-bit. The people of JK, at least, have the right to know that who eroded it.”

He also asked the Congress to introspect on the fact that despite ruling for so many years, no one in Kashmir remembers their Prime Ministers, and on the other end, Atal Behari Vajpayee ruled for only six years and yet people of Kashmir remember him.

The PC chief pointed out that in order to deal with militancy, Government of India needs to create a single institution.

“In terms of the rise of a new militancy, the central government needs to consolidate and create a single institution that deals with J&K. The large number of institutions are a part of the problem that has perpetuated discord and confusion,” he stressed.

“Violence cannot be Kashmir’s destiny. New Delhi should not pretend to have a strategy, but rather create a strategy with inputs from J&K,” he added.

Lone said that the present times are ‘confusing for the youth’ and they are not able to decide where their morality and support lies.

“Instead of a narrative of heroes, villains and counter-heroes, the centrality of the Kashmir issue lies in mainstream dialogue that gets clout. It is a confusing time for the youth to decide where there morality and support lies,” he pointed out.

He mentioned that while discussing Kashmir, death has become a mere statistic.

“The people of J&K have a right to hold the perpetrators of the issues that plague Kashmir accountable. We live in a time where death has become a mere statistic in the discussion around Kashmir,” Lone said.

In the same event, PDP Patron Muzaffar Hussain Baig had said that if plebiscite happens, majority of Muslims in Kashmir will opt for India because of their secular nature.

He also said that the young Kashmiris who are dying today in the valley are not doing it for Pakistan but consider it as their religious duty.

When asked who controls the streets today baig had said, “Youth. So indirectly the ISI.”


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