‘Government wants to make an example of my mother,’ says Mehbooba Mufti's daughter

Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti. File photo   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Iltija Mufti, 32, daughter of incarcerated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, speaks to The Hindu on why she thinks J&K is far from being a normal place, even as the revocation of the erstwhile State’s special status completes one year. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Your mother and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s detention was extended by three months recently. Why do you think that happened?

The government wants to make an example of her. It wants people to know if you speak against Article 370, you show dissent, if you don’t agree with what we did, then we are going to detain you indefinitely, arbitrarily, and illegally, put you behind bars, humiliate you. BJP has an aversion, to the extent that no one should talk about Article 370. Also, it is aimed at creating a fear psychosis, which is prevalent for the past one year now, stronger. A person would think hundreds of times before peacefully protesting, pondering if a former Chief Minister is still being detained, then imagine what they can do to me.

Also read: Mehbooba Mufti was working with separatists: Public Safety Act dossier

Was Ms. Mufti ever asked to sign a bond to get released?

Yes. The pressure the Indian government felt was a couple of weeks ahead of the United National General Assembly meet in October last year. An administrative officer was sent to my mother with the bond sheet. If you read the terms and conditions of the bond sheet, it sounds like we live in a dictatorship or an autocratic government. It said “if I speak or make any statement on abrogation of Article 370 and 35A I am going to be put behind bars.” This bond was patently illegal. She outright refused [to sign] it. See the sequence of events. They took her away, put pressure overtly, covertly...they orchestrated a split in the party, where [intelligence] agencies were used. Then in February, the Public Safety Act [PSA] was slapped on my mother. What really infuriated me was when they started blackmailing me about not speaking to the media. I used to get threats indirectly. I was told if I keep talking, “we are going to slap PSA on your mother.”

Also read: A year on, several Jammu and Kashmir leaders remain confined

Do you think there are takers for the post-August 5 position in J&K?

My mother is against it. What happened last year was wrong then and it’s wrong now and it will be wrong five years down the line. When a huge change happens, when people suffer injustice and oppression, there is a mass movement. It’s never a movement of ten or 12 people. The Citizenship Amendment Bill saw mobilisation, involving young and old women. No opposition parties were there. Post August 5 has impacted all of us. It’s not just about the mainstream. Domicile rule is going to affect all of us. This is a time of unprecedented crisis and the role for a leader is to show the way.

Also read: No new government jobs in J&K a year after Article 370 move

The leaders owe to people to speak against it and take a step. But to place the onus entirely on the leadership is also not right. We all need to speak up. I am not just referring to the Gupkar Declaration, where all the regional parties came together regardless of their animosity and acrimony. The mainstream needs to understand the agenda of the BJP. The mainstream exists because of the people and people don’t exist because of them. In a decade, when demography changes, the people are going to change. The outsiders will gradually start outnumbering [local residents]. It has happened before in history. It has happened in Tibet. They know what they are doing. The mainstream must realise it might exist for another election term but after that what is going to be the future of this place and their own parties?

Don’t you think the mainstream faces a crisis of credibility in J&K?

Yes, the mainstream faces a crisis of credibility. People feel disillusioned because they are angry. The mainstream has been tom-toming about the idea of India, its plurality and diversity. What has happened now? You can’t blame the political leadership entirely. In the whole grand scheme of things, it is essentially the Indian government that held the power. The mainstream, for example, PDP, believes in self rule, and sees Kashmir as a political problem. It was for opening up borders, facilitating trade, letting people travel and see what it is like across the other side. It was going to help heal. The mainstream has become a convenient scapegoat because they served as a buffer. It’s like a mediator being a suspect from all sides. When you are here, you are not a Kashmiri enough, for them you are a traitor. You are constantly proving yourself. It’s an incredibly tough balancing act. Unfortunately, people in Delhi always refused to see J&K as a political problem but a military problem. The BJP sees it as a religious problem now.

Is it a coincidence that the BJP will do Bhumi Puja at Ayodhya on August 5?

It’s no coincidence. The Prime Minister is going to Ayodhya on August 5. It obfuscates the reality, the entire fallout of the revocation of special status and covers up the huge colossal failure in J&K. The whole day the press is going to be focussed on Ayodhya.

Where do you see J&K a year on, after revocation of its special status?

It looks very grim, bleak, because the BJP’s idea of India is a country where there is hatred against minorities, against Muslims. The BJP’s warped and weird idea of ‘Naya Kashmir’ is about suppressing and disempowering people because the majority of people happen to be Muslims. The ‘Naya Kashmir’ goes well with the ‘Naya India’ they are trying to create. But once it crosses the tipping point, it will not remain the same.

Also read: Hug each Kashmiri, build a new paradise: Narendra Modi

The BJP thought they were controlling the narrative a year ago, did they ever imagine China would come and invade our land? The Indian army should be at the borders, in Ladakh, where they protect the borders. The BJP does not want to put the Army there but want to put them here so that people live under the fear of the jackboots. With China, they are having negotiations despite them breaching our territorial integrity. There are negotiations with China but with Kashmiri people, you rob them off what is constitutionally theirs, don’t want a dialogue and keep heaping one insult on top of another. Unfortunately, there isn’t a government that has a long-term vision. A vision to resolve Kashmir and see it is as a human and a political problem. Engage the Hurriyat and Pakistan and speak to the stakeholders here. Till that time, this problem is going to keep continuing.

The government claims street violence has come down and militancy is waning in J&K. Do you consider these as signs of normalcy?

This government says one thing to the media, one thing in the Supreme Court and one thing internationally. Internationally, they say removing 370 has led to emancipation of women, and will get Pandits back. In the court, the government says it can’t get 4G back because infiltration will rise and cross-border terrorism will spike. Then they say there is peace in J&K. Can we expect any better from the government that has always fudged facts and figures on the GDP, under reporting of COVID-19 cases? If there is peace and calm, why impose Section 144 on August 4 and 5? Let people free. Let’s see what they do.

Will you ever apply for a domicile certificate?

I don’t accept what has happened. I don’t want to even think about it. It’s so distressing the way they changed the rules in the middle of the pandemic. This was to add to the insecurities. They want to push people one way or the other. They want to push people to the extent so that violence is justified. This is the psyche. But people have shown a lot of restraint.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 10:22:33 PM |

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