On the eve of the all-party delegation’s visit to Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday ruled out his resignation and hoped the controversial AFSPA would be removed from the entire State for which people should create conducive atmosphere of peace.
Removal of the AFSPA would be the first confidence building measure for the people of Kashmir by the Centre to demonstrate its sincerity and it could build on it to take further steps in future to resolve the problem, he said.
“I am not the one who shows his back when problems are there. I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis for the people who have voted me to power. Insha Allah we will overcome this soon,” he told PTI in an interview.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: An all-party delegation is scheduled to arrive in Srinagar. What are your expectations and how do you react to some sections who insist that you quit for normalcy to return?
A: I am not the one who shows his back when problems are there. I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis for the people who have voted me to power. Insha Allah we will overcome this soon.
Now let us understand who is making demands for my resignation — some frustrated political elements who failed to make it to the government in 2008 elections. Even the separatists — be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani or the Mirwaiz — have no issues with my government and are articulating an ideology which they have been practising for the last two decades.
The all-party delegation is arriving here tomorrow (Monday) and I as the Chief Minister can only assure on behalf of my government that all those who are sincere about finding a solution to the present crises will be facilitated to talk to the delegation and I urge all those who have got the invite to use this opportunity to express their views to the visiting team so that the entire political spectrum of the country develops understanding of the issue and help in its resolution by evolving a consensus.
I hope they meet all sections of people — be it mainstream or separatist outfits. I also want to make an appeal to all those other than the invitees as well who want to meet the delegation should get in touch with the district authorities who will facilitate.
How does one explain these passionate cries for azaadi ? Many keen observers say the situation has reached a point of no return. How does one politically resolve and calm tempers?
I do not agree with the point that the situation has reached a point of no return. We have inherited a problem and steps are being taken to build confidence and steps will be taken — as my endeavour is only to take Kashmir forward. It has been a difficult time but my government’s firm resolve is to address concerns of all the stakeholders. I am confident that the all-party delegation will help the State and the Union governments in paving the way forward.
There is a feeling that the Abdullah family does not want to let go of political power?
This is an allegation which has no basis because the history of Kashmir will bear testimony that the Abdullahs have always sacrificed power and personal comfort for the welfare of the people of the State but all the same have never misguided its people for personal gains and have instead always voiced the truth, however, bitter it may be.
In the process of standing for truth, the Abdullahs and the National Conference have suffered but they have never compromised with either their ideology or the people of the State for any petty political gains.
There have been over 100 deaths since the beginning of June. Are you worried about this?
Of course I am sad at the turn of events and I don’t want mindless loss of lives. Till June things were normal and everybody was appreciative of my government, its delivery and sincerity. Today everyone is trying to find faults.
But the perpetuators of these protests must understand that they should not use the youth and children as their shields and provoke them to indulge in arson and targeting of Army convoys, public property, and security camps which leads to confrontation with the security forces and then unfortunate incidents of deaths. Death anyway saddens everybody and my heart bleeds for those who have lost their kin.
We do give space for peaceful protests but those who undertake to keep them peaceful indulge in mindless rhetoric thus instigating the people who then indulge in arson which is always followed by unfortunate tragedies. We are taking all the measures to prevent loss of life and exercising maximum restraint but those who take law into their own hands must realise that it is the government’s primary responsibility to protect the lives and properties of the peace-loving silent majority.
Do you agree that the AFSPA should be repealed or at least diluted?
Revocation of AFSPA from certain areas is a demand that we have been raising even when we were in opposition and I have flagged the issue from the day one after I became the Chief Minister and the Union government is seized of the matter.
I am sure that we all together will create an atmosphere where AFSPA is not only removed from few places but from the entire State. However, for that to happen, peace loving people of the State have to come forward and create conducive atmosphere.
It will be the first confidence building measure for the people of Kashmir if something is done. It will also demonstrate sincerity on the part of the Central government that it wants to build on this measure and take further steps in the future.
You have been accused of not reaching out to the people of the State. Many accuse you of spending more time in Delhi.
That is hardly true. I have been in Delhi just a couple of times in the last few months. This is a clear diversionary tactic. My going to Delhi has no bearing on what is happening here. This is a perception being created by certain vested interests to tarnish my image.
I am focused on my job at hand and the very fact that I have reached out to every nook and corner of the State in the last 18 months and been with the people is a testimony of my reach out.
I am totally accessible to anyone and everyone. I may not be accessible to the media as much as I should be because I do not believe in running my administration through PR exercises and instead believe that the work done on the ground will speak for me with my people who have voted me to power.
However, now at times I feel some politicians who may not reach out to the people but cosy up to the mediapersons can do a lot of damage to a politician who prefers to work silently for his people.
What do you expect from the all-party initiative?
Kashmir has seen lot of bloodshed and destruction in last two decades. This should not carry on further.
Differences have to be brought to the table and there must be an understanding of all issues.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P. Chidambaram are sincere about finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue and have voiced their deep concern for the people of the State on numerous occasions and have emphasised the need to instil confidence in people and there is a seriousness of purpose in their words and I am sure the all-party delegation, after due deliberations, will strengthen their hands and help in evolving a consensus whereby succour and relief will come to the people of the State.
The alienation of people from the process needs to be removed and the trust deficit that has crept in over the last many decades needs to be bridged. But for that it is important we rise above our stated positions and party lines and work together.
That is a heartfelt message.