interview | Iltija Mufti Other States

Centre's behaviour in Kashmir reeks of paranoia, says Iltija Mufti

"I’m thankful to the Supreme Court. It was only after their intervention that I could meet my mother."

Iltija Mufti, younger daughter of former J&K chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, was allowed by the Supreme Court to meet mother four weeks into her detention following the revocation of Article 370 and the state-wide clampdown. She speaks of a simmering anger in the Valley under lockdown for over 50 days.

The Supreme Court finally allowed you to meet your mother after many weeks. How did the meeting go? How has the prolonged detention impacted Mehbooba Mufti?

I’m thankful to the Supreme Court. It was only after their intervention that I could meet my mother. These aren’t normal times so I felt overwhelmed when I finally saw her. She has a lot of inner strength and is coping. However, she is very distressed about the manner in which minors have been detained. Which democracy arrests kids?

During your stay in Srinagar, did you face any further restrictions compared to the past?

Thanks to the Supreme Court's order, the SSG or the State administration couldn’t harass me this time. However, they aren’t receptive at all. In the course of four days I tried unsuccessfully to meet the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, and then had to leave a written communication. My uncle too has sent him lots of emails, messages and DMs on Twitter. None of it has been acknowledged to this day. My grandmother still hasn’t been allowed to meet her brother lodged in Srinagar’s Centaur Hotel, a designated jail now.

The State administration only responds when one approaches the media. Otherwise their behaviour has been extremely insensitive and irresponsible. One shudders to think what a common Kashmiri must be facing.

Is Ms. Mufti allowed to meet her relatives and the party leaders? What keeps her busy in the detention?

The State administration gets orders from the Centre. And their behaviour vis-a-vis Kashmir reeks of paranoia. We were able to meet my mother only once I spoke to the media and approached the SC. She like other detainees is not allowed to meet anybody other than relatives. She’s been keeping busy by reading the Quran and also books like Nelson Mandela’s autobiography A long walk to freedom.

How many PDP leaders, former legislators and workers have been detained so far?

I really have no clue but what’s certain is that most higher and middle rung leaders have been detained in makeshift jails or placed under house arrest. I heard rumours about how they've been threatened with the Public Safety Act if they challenge their detention. There are also rumours that the ones being freed are forced to sign a bond undertaking that they won’t participate in political rallies You’d be forgiven for thinking that J&K is a police State now. There are no legal or even moral constraints as far as the administration is concerned.

Did you get any reply to the open letter addressed to Union Home Minister Amit Shah?

I have written several letters and emails since August 5. I’m told BBC got in touch with the Home Minister’s office and they declined to comment on my letter.

They haven’t bothered responding to my email questioning the legality and nature of detentions either. They don’t want to leave a paper trail since whatever is being done is illegal and against the law.

With the clampdown now going over 50 days, what is your sense of the ground situation? Have J&K's people accepted their new status?, after the special status was revoked on August 5?

One is appalled and disgusted in equal measure to see the new parameters the government comes up with to prove that everything is normal. Despite knowing that there is a serious humanitarian, medical and economic crisis, you tell the world people of J&K have equal rights when the truth is you've snatched the right to even mourn the death of a loved one from us. Traffic is no indicator of normalcy. I can’t predict what people just feel. But it is safe to assume that there is simmering anger because they have been caged like animals. Whether they've accepted this unilateral decision, only time will tell.

You have decided to operate your mother's Twitter handle. What is the purpose of that?

I think J&K is in a state of undeclared emergency. Our rights have been relegated to the dustbin and I feel it’s very important to let the world know what the ground realities are. At a time when we all feel so helpless, I hope to give strength to those who feel broken and hopeless. We are are fighting for our rights and sense of dignity. Need of the hour is to take this head on and fight for what’s right.

I request Kashmiris who've recently left the State to speak up about their own experience of this crippling curfew and approach the court like I did to seek justice. We cannot and mustn’t give up.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 3:18:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/centres-behaviour-in-kashmir-reeks-of-paranoia-says-iltija-mufti/article29577355.ece

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