Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference president Sajad Gani Lone on Sunday compared the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 with novel coronavirus infection. Speaking exclusively with India Today TV, Sajad Gani Lone said, “Just like Covid-19 shows symptoms after five days, what they [Centre] have done will perhaps show its symptoms after five years.”
From the Article 370 abrogation to the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), to the need of Kashmiris in general, Sajad Gani Lone spoke on a range of issues.
Sajad Lone was released from house arrest in Srinagar on July 31 just five days short of a year after he was detained when the Centre scrapped the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Sajad Lone shared the news of his release on Twitter and said, “I am a free man”. Months after his release, Sajad Lone spoke with India Today TV.
Q: What did you feel about the decision of scrapping Article 370?
Answer: Something which rightfully belonged to us has been taken away unconstitutionally by force. It rightfully belonged to us.
Q: Has the decision weakened the mainstream?
Answer: Yes there is no doubt over it. The mainstream political parties are basically meant to do development. But, in the context of J&K, they were also propounding the ideology of being of the Constitution of India as opposed to others who sought separatism. So, today when you take away everything, the people are asking you — is this what you were selling us?
All the political workers were locked up. We live in a strange place today we are strangers in our own land.
But the bigger problem is that — like Covid shows symptoms after 5 days, what they [Centre] have done will perhaps show its symptoms after five years. So while they are rejoicing what they have done, it will be us who have to live here, who will have to face the music.
Q: You were an ally of the BJP. Did you feel hurt that this happened and whether you ever imagine something like this would have happened?
A: Hurt when it comes to what is happening all across. I can say that it was us being foolhardy on not being able to appreciate where it would lead.
I say I was doing it for development. If you see the elections and the results, there was no ideological mandate for anything but development, not this.
Q: Six parties have come together and formed an alliance to bring back 370 but how will you do it? The other side is saying it isn’t possible now.
A: I think Delhi might have done it on the basis of a couple of assumptions which are very fragile. If the assumptions don’t hold this all will collapse. They may have thought the good days will last forever they don’t last for anybody.
At the end of the day, the people’s voices here will be heard here. My sincere advice to them will be — ok fine you are very powerful in the country today, but the world existed before this Parliament also. Look at history you can’t make cultural and demographic changes they don’t hold they are bound to fail.
Q: What is happening at LAC, do you see Article 370 dimension to it?
A: It is beyond my pay and grade to talk about. They are talking to each other. Let them do that. We are the weakest party so what can we say about it.
Q: What will be your politics like from now on? Will you contest elections?
A: We are a part of a collective mechanism now. So, we will decide collectively.
Q: What strategy will the alliance take?
A: Of course, the courts are there, but we will go beyond the courts. Also, there are other constitutionals methods. There is a people’s voice.
I can’t lay down the framework for you on how we will do it. But, I put my hand on my heart. We may not have to seek it. Maybe someone will come to give it to us. When those set of conditions come, I don’t know but it won’t be too far.
People of Jammu and Kashmir are an important variable and they can’t be pushed away and told they don’t exist. People who are making decisions are short-sighted and they are blinded by hatred and they need to remove those glasses of hatred and look at things as how they are in reality.
Q: Heard you say that you wanted to quit this. Is that how you felt?
A: You see, we are a new generation compared to my father and I am sure people of my generation wouldn’t want to stick till the end. But it won’t come when the going gets tough.
We are under tremendous pressure visibly and invisibly. At times, you do ask yourself is it worth it? But, then I have seen in my area sheer love of people and that is what keeps you going.
Q: What did you do in jail?
A: They sent us to jail thinking we will be troubled. I have seen the jail before it wasn’t like that. I have read a lot, did a lot of introspection, lost a lot of weight. Would talk to people from other parties. So we thought we have to make the best of it. So whatever politics is happening now has the background in those days of the jail.
Q: Will you people go talk to PM and others?
A: The institution of PM or President is big. It hardly matters who sits on it. We haven’t taken anything from anyone so why should we go talk but if they come and want to talk to us I don’t think anyone will have a problem in that.
Q: You have also asked for resolution of Kashmir problem? What is that are you asking for azaadi?
A: No mainstream party has sought azaadi. The meaning of resolution is to put an end to the violence. A Kashmiri wants to live in peace without fear. Problem is that, whenever we talk or something, it is twisted and we are shown as enemies to a common man in India.
When someone is in pain in India, I feel hurt but when that happens to us, there are people who seem to be rejoicing. Who wouldn’t want to resolve but when a Kashmiri says that they attribute motives.
Q: Are you saying talks within the constitution?
A: Talk to us within the constitution but those who are outside the constitution talk to them that way. That is what we are saying.