APM gave false sense of normalcy in Kashmir to global community: Ruhullah Mehdi

NC leader says delimitation is a product of the act by which the Article 370 was scrapped therefore participation in the process gives legitimacy and acceptance to the August 5 decisions which Kashmiris should be challenging instead of accepting; BJP through Delimitation Commission wants to make demographic changes in the electoral map of J&K


Srinagar, June 30 (KMS): Aga Ruhullah Mehdi, an outspoken Kashmiri politician and National Conference leader, has said that through the 24 June All Party Meet (APM) on Jammu and Kashmir, pro-India political leadership has provided an escape route for New Delhi amid growing international uproar on Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370.

In an interview with The Wire, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi said Indian Prime Minister Modi needed an ‘all is good in Kashmir’ report card for his visit to the US later this year, and the meeting has presented a false sense of normalcy in Kashmir to the global community.

“The all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24 remained inconclusive, with regional parties of Kashmir demanding the return of statehood before the restoration of electoral processes in J&K, “ he added.

Ruhullah said the regional parties should stand up for the rights of the people of J&K and boycott any elections till 2024, when general polls are scheduled to be held in the country.

When asked about the Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s hopes that New Delhi would restore statehood before holding elections, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi said basically nothing new came out of this meeting which the people of J&K could think was to their benefit. “Should the political parties of J&K participate in the delimitation exercise when it is being feared that it would be used to alter the demographics of J&K? The participation in delimitation is wrong on two counts. One, the delimitation is a product of the act by which the Article 370 was scrapped. Therefore, the participation in the process gives legitimacy and acceptance to the August 5 decisions which we should be contesting instead of accepting. Two, these members will not have voting rights in the delimitation commission. They can’t effect any changes in the process and results. They can only be spectators of the plans that the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) wants to implement. And given the apprehensions around these plans, this commission is up for making a demographic change in the electoral map of J&K,” he added.

He also clarified that these parties will gain nothing from participating in the delimitation process as it was only aimed at giving legitimacy to the Delimitation Commission.

Aga Ruhullah also regretted that participants of the APM were apologetic before, during and after the meeting. “They couldn’t muster the courage to demand the return of Article 370. These parties have self-cornered themselves. They lost an opportunity,” he added.

When asked about the misuse of central agencies by BJP for coercing political leaders to fall in line across India, he said the only consistency that we know of is this BJP government is using these agencies to muzzle the voices of dissent all over India.

NC leader also made it clear that the APM was, like all past engagements between Delhi and Srinagar, which have been beneficial for New Delhi only.

“PM Modi wanted legitimacy to the August 5 decision and this meeting and its outcome is a great help to that end. He needed an “all is good in Kashmir” report card for his visit to the US later this year where he is meeting President (Joe) Biden. The all-party meeting has made ways for that report card to be prepared with the help of the Kashmiri politicians. The meeting has presented a smokescreen or a false sense of normalcy in Kashmir to the international community. The constitutional rights and dignity that J&K lost on August 5 was not even discussed beyond it being a point in ‘information exchange’. Kashmiri politicians came back satisfied with the “assurance” for the restoration of statehood “at an appropriate time”, and with the agreement to participate in delimitation exercise and then elections.”

“As we learn from history, the clock has never been turned back after the J&K political establishment participated in these processes without first obtaining back what it wanted. I am afraid Article 370 will be gone forever like autonomy did as a result of this,” Aga Ruhullah said.

When asked whether staying away from electoral battles, the pro-India parties of IIOJK won’t be risking vacating the ground for the BJP to take over J&K, he said one of the pro-India political parties contested the 2014 polls with the same mantra. “We have lost much more and bigger than what you can get back by this election or the assembly and chair. But these parties, whose leaders just around some one year ago were confined to homes or jailed, are very eager to participate in the elections. Where does that leave the people of J&K? The people stand not represented. Their aspirations, dignity, rights and sentiments are not respected and represented,” he said adding but there is always a way.

When he was asked what the way is, Ruhullah Mehdi said first, we should not give legitimacy to the August 5 decision by participating in the processes designed and dictated by New Delhi. Instead, we should engage with the country’s leadership who stand for secular and inclusive India like Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and his son, Captain Amarinder Singh, M.K. Stalin and many others like them.

“Through these leaders, we can generate a public opinion in India about why Article 370 was and is important. These leaders are concerned about what is happening in J&K and they want a strong federal structure in India. We should garner their support in opinion building and support them in return. India seems to be changing. 2024 seems to be giving some hope. We should wait till then. We should not surrender because the elections will give them the breather and legitimacy to the August 5 decision which they will sell at an international level. The RSS has ideological objectives in which they want to settle scores with Muslims for Mughals. They want to disenfranchise Muslims and turn them into second class citizens throughout India. In their (RSS) ideology, Muslims of Kashmir have two crimes. One is that they are Muslims and second is that they are Muslims who had a state of their own. Therefore, I don’t think it’s in their plan of things to empower J&K or Muslims living here. They are on an ideological war and they are fulfilling their objectives.”

When asked whether New Delhi would restore the statehood of J&K and will there be elections before delimitation, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi said “No, I don’t think J&K’s statehood would be restored before elections or even anytime soon after elections.”

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