Jammu and Kashmir is heading for the District Development Council (DDC) elections — the first electoral exercise since the abrogation of Article 370. Several member parties of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, including PDP and National Conference, have alleged that their candidates, unlike those of BJP, are not being allowed to campaign. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also called the alliance “the Gupkar gang”.
India Today TV consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to PDP chief and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti over these controversies. This is Mehbooba Mufti’s first interview since she was released from detention last month. Excerpts:
Q: Home Minister has called you the leader of the “Gupkar gang, part of an unholy global alliance against India”. How do you respond?
A: BJP has been trying to illegitimise dissent and discredit the people. This is their tactic to divert attention from the real issues. They got such a huge mandate. What’s their vision for the country? Every party had a vision. Jawaharlal Nehru had a vision that included AIIMS and JNU. Manmohan Singh brought in new economic policies. But this party has only given name-calling.
Q: You said you won’t hold the Indian flag till Article 370 is restored. BJP says it’s anti-national and seditious…
A: Unfortunately, the majority of the media is peddling the lies of BJP. I have taken an oath to uphold the Indian constitution. The J&K constitution is part of the Indian constitution. The J&K flag is part of the J&K constitution. Nobody has to teach me. My father was a proud Indian. He was a proud Kashmiri.
Q: How do you respond to the charge that your loyalties are divided?
A: We are all the mainstream parties and we have taken an oath to defend the constitution of J&K. Have these chaddhiwalas unfurled the national flag? I am not looking for any certificate from them. My father unfurled the tri-colour when it was taboo. He also unfurled the J&K flag. We will defend it. They have dismembered the state. The J&K constitution has been plundered. They have brought the J&K Bank to its knees. The anti-corruption branch is interfering.
Q: Are you fighting the elections even without Article 370 being restored because you know you will otherwise be irrelevant?
A: Why are they so rattled by our coming together? We never said that we will not fight any election. I said I will not fight an election till the J&K flag is restored. BJP doesn’t want any allies. We do.
Q: Is it political opportunism for survival?
A: We are fighting for the survival of the identity of the state. They are trying to loot J&K.
Q: Centre says ‘we gave you a chance but you failed to control corruption and terrorism’…
A: For these corruption allegations, why don’t they do anything and put me behind bars? BJP is spending a lot of money on their candidates. Who are they to teach us about corruption? Terrorism has gone up. Opposition leaders are kept captive. There is no 4G Internet. If the situation is in control, why don’t they allow protests? Media is peddling lies. In J&K, they are not allowing dissent. People are taking up guns because they are not allowed to protest. What’s wrong with that? I’m not justifying. I’m just informing the country about what the boys are doing.
Q: Amit Shah says “Gupkar gang” is going global…
A: This is what they will talk about. China has taken away 1,000 sq km of our country’s land. They are not talking about it.
Q: Will we see new politics in Kashmir Valley?
We are united, thanks to BJP. This is not for the election, but the larger picture. We are going to fight unitedly. When the J&K flag comes back, I will raise both flags with pride. I don’t know why Congress is scared. Why can’t they take forward Nehru’s legacy?