‘Mehbooba has reached a place where she shouldn’t have been; PDP-BJP misled people to gain power’

TNN Bureau. Updated: 12/20/2016 5:19:45 PM This Person: Then and Now

Zafar Choudhary: You say that every government across 1960s, 1970s and 1980s jailed you for raising public issues. But we see that despite not being from any of the ruling parties, you have been friendly to all the governments, except the present one, since 1996. Not only this, Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed were keen about inducting you as a Minister. What kind of a turnaround is this?
Tarigami: This could be explained by the course of politics in Jammu and Kashmir which has significantly changed after the 1990s. There has never been any deviation or inconsistency in what I have stood for before the 1990s or after that. The changing political situation has required of me to contribute in a different way.

Zafar: National Conference helped you to enter the Assembly as they didn’t field candidate against you in 1996. Any specific reason behind that?
Tarigami: Yes, indeed there was a reason but the NC didn’t make use of the opportunity. On the eve of 1996 elections in Jammu and Kashmir, it was H.D. Deve Gowda’s government at the Centre. The Gowda government was supported by my party, the CPI(M), on the basis of certain conditions which included “larger autonomy for J&K”. Grant of autonomy to J&K therefore made into the Common Minimum Programme of the United Front government — perhaps first time a documented commitment of a government at the Centre. But the NC couldn’t make use of that opportunity.

Akanksha Gupta: I have read in an old interview of yours, that you have been involved in the politics since very early. You were an active member of student politics and in other political activities as well during your college days. However, in Jammu and Kashmir now, student’s politics is almost zero. How do you see this?’
Tarigami: I do not believe that student politics in Jammu & Kashmir is zero. Students are active but on streets rather than in institutions. This is because of the peculiarity of operations in Jammu and Kashmir and certain restrictions applied by administration because of which student politics cannot flourish at college and university level. Unfortunately, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have opted for not allowing the students to form unions in educational institutions. However, as far as protests outside the colleges and university are concerned, most of the activists belong to student community. The situation needs to be improved. Students should be encouraged as they are more sensitive that other sections of the society. The students have to be trusted and encouraged to organize themselves in order to shape their future. Universities provide opportunities for debates even over controversial issues. Such debates help in opening up communication with those who feel alienated.

Akanksha Gupta: You are four-time lawmaker from Kulgam which is one of the worst-hit areas in Kashmir turmoil. You have closely seen the situation there as well. What according to you is the solution to the problem prevailing in Kashmir?
Tarigami: I have said this time and again that “dialogue” is the only solution to Kashmir problem. The Kashmir problem will be solved only when people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh willingly decide to live together in peace and shape their future together and this can be achieved only with dialogue. I suggest a serious dialogue between all stakeholders, i.e. people of Jammu and Kashmir and Central government. There should be a proper dialogue with Pakistan as well. War is no solution. Our leaders do not want to accept this but Pakistan is important and we have to talk to them. Also, there should be a dialogue within Jammu and Kashmir between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Even, they need to talk to each other to understand each other’s issues and demands. There should be reconciliation within Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as of what suits all the three, their sub regions and the people of different communities living in different parts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Only dialogue at all these levels can lead to some sort of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Adhiraj Malhan: You have been an MLA since 1996 and have seen the working of the government from close quarters. Who do you think is responsible, the political leadership or bureaucracy, for this state of affairs that leads to eruption of turmoil in the state time and again?
Tarigami: Of course, the political leadership in the government is responsible for the situation that emerges during its tenure. How a horse runs depends on the horse rider, how he hold the reins. Hence, blaming the bureaucracy is not justified at all. If a bureaucrat is not working according to your programmes, then you can transfer him. Political leadership needs a will to work for the betterment of the people of state. During previous and present turmoil, ruling political leadership failed to deliver governance at grassroots level.

Adhiraj Malhan: It has been observed that people follow the protest calendar of the separatists but they also simultaneously take part in democratic process with high voting percentage which sometimes is same as the national polling average. So, are the people with separatists or are they part of mainstream political system? What do you think?
Tarigami: It is disappointing that the promises made with the people of Kashmir were never fulfilled by successive regimes at Centre and state. People of Kashmir want a dignified life and they are struggling for it. What happened to the promises made by the National Conference about autonomy, PM Narsimha Rao said “sky is the limit”, PM Deve Gowda government in its Common Minimum Programme recommended “Maximum possible autonomy to J&K”, Atal Behari Vajpayee said that the issue should be resolved “Insaniyat Ke Dayre mein” and what happened to that. Headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Working Groups held discussions in Srinagar and Delhi and sought views; what happened to the recommendations of those working groups?
In 2010, the Parliamentary delegation that visited made some recommendations and then three interlocutors talked to people of different views from every region of the state but their recommendations were not even ever tabled in Parliament by the UPA government.
Promises made to the people of Kashmir were never fulfilled by successive regimes. J&K people never got what was offered to them. People are disappointed with the non-seriousness adopted towards fulfilling the promises made to them from time to time. In such a condition, people turn desperate and adopt the path of agitation. They also want a dignified life and good living standards. Dialogue is the only way to bring down the tempers, lessen the agony of the people.

Akriti Jamwal: Jammu and Kashmir has a complex political history. Can you shed some light on political history of the Left in Jammu and Kashmir? Why couldn't it flourish much here?
Tarigami: Left had a great influence in Quit Kashmir Movement. Two main hubs of Left ideology at that time were Lahore and Aligarh and because Lahore was one of the main political centre, many main leaders of J&K political arena were influenced by the Left ideology, directly or indirectly. We have forgotten how crucial was the role of Left in shaping the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is the only place known where Land Reforms were introduced without compensation; implementation of such radical reform was possible only due to influence of Left. Origin of Praja Parishad is also linked with Land Reforms, so one can draw influence of Left, even there. Even before 1931, influence of Left was evident in Silk Factory Movement or Working Class Movement, which had massive participation and further had major influence on Kashmir politics. “Naya Kashmir”, a perspective document for governance, introduced right after independence, which contained concepts that we talk about today like equality for women, free education upto university level and developing institutions of governance at the grassroot level, decentralisation, democratisation and so on, was authored mainly by Left ideologists. It wasn't solely influenced by Left ideology but Left definitely played an important role. I admit, the division in 1967 was a major setback for the Left front but even after that, it hasn't been dormant or invisible, like it is often blamed. It has survived long and has a long way to go.

Deepak Khajuria: Which young CM is better for the state in your views, Omar or Mehbooba?
Tarigami: I don’t think that I should judge them, as far this Chief Minister is concerned I have differences with Mehbooba ji over many issues. Actually, BJP-PDP is an unholy alliance, which is not good for people of Kashmir as well as people of Jammu at all. I distance myself from this government because they say something different in Kashmir and something else in Jammu and ended up doing none of that because they chose to come to power.

Zafar: Why do you say that the present alliance is unholy and a deceit with the electorate. Don’t you agree with late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s assertions that alliance between PDP and BJP is a grand reconciliation between Kashmir and Jammu regions? They have often reinforced this belief by citing examples that Jammu didn’t react, as it used to in the past, on controversial issues of beef ban or more recently on proposed relief to militant Burhan Wani’s family on account of his brother’s killing by security forces. The PDP says that alliance with BJP has mellowed down the regional anger.
Tarigami: This is complete nonsense. How could the PDP undermine the intelligence and civility of people of Jammu? Why should Jammu react on non-issues? These are all manufactured narratives. I completely disagree with the reconciliation theory. By floating this theory the PDP is actually asserting that the differences between Kashmir and Jammu, or other regions and communities, are deep. So, if such differences are sought to be addressed by sharing power, then let me say that once the power sharing arrangement ends the difference shall be back to the fore. We must understand that issues, wherever, have to be resolved by addressing the grievances and not by sharing power. This is no solution. Basically, the PDP and BJP have betrayed the mandate and misled people to gain power. This is not going to help.

Deepak Khajuria: You are in politics since mid-60s and have agitated on various issues in Kashmir till you were first elected as MLA in 1996. Now, you have been in Assembly since 1996, seen and worked with almost five Chief Ministers. Whom you judge as the best CM for J&K?
Tarigami: It is not easy to judge or say who has been the best of all the Chief Ministers, but even though I was arrested multiple times during the tenure of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, I still think that he was the tallest leader of the state and also the best CM ever. I had differences with him, that is a separate thing, but as a politician he was the best.

Parvinder Singh: Do you see anything new in the way the Modi government is handling the volatile situation in Kashmir compared to other governments at Centre earlier or is it business as usual in the hope that things will settle down on their own?
Tarigami: I don’t think there is any kind of positive step taken by the Modi government to solve the Kashmir problem. When a delegation from J&K went to meet PM Modi, I myself apprised him about the complicated situation that Kashmir is going through since the past many decades. He assured that concrete steps will be taken in this regard. But I don’t see anything fruitful being done by Delhi so far. Assurances have been given by the PMO many times but they never transform into action. Instead of solving the Kashmir issue, our politicians and bureaucrats remain busy in giving unwanted statements. They boast about unfurling the national flag in other parts but don’t see that the places where the tricolor had been unfurled under the shadows of bullets are shrinking. Where are we heading in such a scenario?
I am saying this from the very first day that we cannot ignore anyone, we must involve every section of the society, be it separatists or anyone else in the dialogue process. Instead of wasting time on praising its weird and impractical policies like demonetization, the government should find solution to the problem.

Deepak Khajuria: You have attended a large number of sessions in the Assembly and have participated in many debates. Is the quality of debate in the Assembly improving or declining?
Tarigami: As far as our Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly is concerned it is much better than many others in the country. At least the chairs and tables are still intact and not broken (laughs). The debate is good but yes, the Assembly sessions are less. I even introduced a bill for a minimum 100 days assembly session in a year, so that at least we can discuss things in detail. There are many serious issues that need to be discussed in the House. The Parliament discussed the Kashmir unrest, it was discussed in international forums but the Assembly wasn’t called for a day to discuss the same. The state government should think over it as it is its duty to run the house smoothly.

Deepak Khajuria: As you joined Left politics when you were a student, why do you think Left’s student wing Students Federation of India (SFI) is not so popular among students here?
Tarigami: Yes, I agreed that SFI is not very popular in J&K like it is in other states and especially in an institution like Jawahar Lal Nehru University. We need to focus on this area, which is necessary.

S. Shekhar: You are a senior poiliticial. What is your opinion about the emerging political scenario of J&K State?
Tarigami: It is very, very disappointing. Where is the delivery, where is the governance? I am in Jammu and you are also here in Jammu. What is happening on the ground? There is unprecedented firing and shelling on the LoC (Line of Control). People are suffering and what is this government doing? It is the responsibility of the government to look after the people who are in misery. What is the outcome? About two years have passed since the formation of this government in the state. What are they doing? They promised rehabilitation of border firing victims. Not only this government but previous governments had also promised their rehabilitation. But you see what is happening. Unemployment is going to be the biggest problem in the future. What this government has done? What this government is doing? Corruption is yet another major issue. You see what is in the newspapers these days. This government is trying to prove that it is also not different from other governments and wants to surpass them in every manner.

Neeraj Sharma: You once contested Parliamentary elections and lost. Do you want to contest again to highlight the issues of the state in Parliament?
Tarigami: I contested Parliamentary elections and got an overwhelming response from the voters in the Kashmir Valley as Left had a very good influence there. Though I list but I got lead in five Assembly segments of the parliamentary seat. Yes, I have aspirations and will contest again if the party asks me to.
Right now I am happy to be where I am presently. I highlight the issues of the people whom I represent and this is my fourth consecutive term in a row.
Ajaydeep Singh: Do you feel that giving compensation to Burhan Wani’s family for his brother’s killing is a right decision of state administration?
Tarigami: I feel that giving incentives or compensation packages to the family for the killing of Khalid Muzaffar Wani is a political decision. Considering Khalid Muzaffar Wani as an innocent shows state’s government double standards. If Wani family is getting compensation then the family of every individual who died in Kashmir turmoil of last five months should also be given compensation. Why is the state government doing injustice to those who got killed in the recent turmoil as they were also not terrorists?

Ajaydeep Singh: Do you agree with BJP assertion that demonetisation has hit militancy in Kashmir as stone –pelting incidents have almost stopped since then?
Tarigami: No, I don’t agree with BJP claim that demonetisation has brought down militancy in Kashmir. Rather infiltration has increased. Demonetisation has severely hit the unorganized sector in India which accounts for 70 per cent of the workforce. The farmers and middle class people have suffered and are still going through various hardships at this point of time. The entire narrative on demonetisation has undergone a huge change since it was announced. Now the stress is on less cash economy, adopting digital payments. Earlier it was black money, corruption, fake currency and militancy. Demonetisation was meant to divert attention from other burning issues.

Anuj Shrivastava: Left has always played a constructive role in J&K as you say and you and your party always tried to resolve this vexed problem. But when your tallest leader Sitaram Yechury went for talks, even the doors weren’t opened for him, he had to return empty-handed. Wasn’t it insulting? Was any regret conveyed later since he is a very senior leader of your party?
Tarigami: No, we see it in a different perspective. There is no ego issue involved here. It was a right step with the right motive for a good intended result. When I met the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi in the month of August as a member of the All-party delegation from the state, I had requested that talks should be held with all people, all the stakeholders. No one should feel left out or ignored. We also very strongly insisted that a formal invitation be sent to the separatists also for talks. Later, when an all-party delegation visited the Valley for talks, we again insisted that a delegation of some leaders should go and try to talk to the separatists even though they had declared that they would boycott the talks being held. Our General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Sharad Yadav and RJD MP Paswan went to talk to separatists on their own. Some people talked to us and some didn’t. We didn’t feel hurt. They went there with the right intent. The visit was to acknowledge their presence, and to show the intent that we want to involve them.

Sahil Prashar: Since 1996 you have been the sole representative of your party in the state Assembly except in 2002 when you had a colleague for company. Do we expect more MLAs from your party in future or is it going to be lonely days for you in future also?
Tarigami: No. While I agree that we have not been able to mark our presence in the number of seats won in Jammu and Kashmir, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are not important when it comes to the state’s politics. And as far as the number of MLAs are concerned, we are surely going to increase our presence. The party is already working on it and I will be having company in Assembly, after 2020 elections for sure.

Comment on this Story