Srinagar: India is a sovereign state and will not acknowledge any international pressure on the Modi government’s decision to detain political leaders in Kashmir, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has said.
He was responding to a query about the possibility of an international outcry against the move, during an interview with ThePrint.
“We have stayed in jails for a year-and-a-half, these people haven’t even spent one-and-a-half-months in jail,” Malik said. “And what does international pressure mean? We are a sovereign state and we will not acknowledge any international pressure. This is our internal matter. Why will anyone exert pressure?”
Mainstream Kashmiri leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been in state custody since 4 August, a day before the Modi government stripped J&K of its special status by abrogating Article 370.
Malik spoke to ThePrint days before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), at the behest of Pakistan ally China, a permanent member, agreed to discuss Jammu & Kashmir at a closed-door meeting Friday.
The meeting came close on the heels of UN secretary general refusing Pakistan’s request for an intervention, citing the 1972 Simla Agreement to back India’s stand that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.
‘Kashmiri leaders under arrest’
Weighing in on the nature of Abdullah and Mehbooba’s detention, Malik said they had been arrested, and were not under preventive custody or house arrest, as widely reported. Even so, he added, the duo were as “comfortable as I am”.
“They are in good places,” said Malik. “Both of them (Mehbooba and Abdullah) are arrested, they are not under house arrest, but they are in places as comfortable as I am.”
Asked about the possibility of a dialogue with other stakeholders, like separatists of the Hurriyat Conference, Malik said, “I should not be asked this question. Delhi is involved in this process.”
‘Congress is directionless’
A recent exchange between Malik and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit headlines after the governor invited the latter to Kashmir following his remarks about violence in the Valley.
Speaking to ThePrint, Malik described the Congress as “directionless”.
“A lot of people (in the Congress) have supported this move (abrogation of Article 370),” Malik said. “Some leaders are saying what Pakistan is saying, Rahul Gandhi has no idea what to do. Rahul Gandhi came out of a meeting and without any provocation said there is injustice in Kashmir.
“That’s why I told him, come here,” he added. “Without knowing, without asking, without having an understanding or knowledge, telling a lie, that doesn’t suit a man of this level.”
Malik said there had been no incidents of violence in Kashmir since last week, when the Modi government not just abrogated Article 370 but also bifurcated J&K into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
“People have understood that removing Article 370 means there will be development,” he added. “The absence of violence shows that people are understanding. For 70 years, they were told that this is important… If it is removed overnight, people will have doubts, but they will slowly understand,” Malik said.
“People who talk about firing,” he said, “I want to tell them that not even a baton was used against people. People here have cooperated very well and we are thankful to them.”
Malik added that security forces had been instructed to handle the situation with “care and understanding”.
“These people (Kashmiris) are not enemies but our own people,” he said. “We have to deal with them with patience. No such act should be done that will hurt them. The forces have dealt with people with love.”
In a separate interaction, Malik told ThePrint that the government was planning to issue ads in the local media to publicise the potential benefits of abrogating Article 370, including how it will help better women’s rights and improve the implementation of the Right to Education.
‘Won’t take long to end communication lockdown’
Jammu & Kashmir has been under a major communication lockdown since 4 August, a move that has left local families scrambling for word from relatives based outside and vice versa.
Malik told ThePrint that “it won’t take long” before the communication lockdown ends.
“I can’t say when,” he said. “It depends on the people, the situation. There is no law and order situation here, but we cannot give communication channels to mischievous people.
“This is the reason behind indoctrination and mobilisation…” he added. “People are told to gather at a particular place, throw stones. All the directions from Pakistani handlers come through these channels, so we are not ready to give it to them at this moment… But it won’t take long.”
‘Protest clip edited’
Asked about the footage released by the BBC, where protesters are seen running amok in Soura, Srinagar, last Friday, against what appears to be the sounds of gunfire, Malik said the clip had been “edited”. He, however, didn’t name the channel.
The home ministry had initially denied foreign media reports of large-scale protests in Soura, saying there had been a few stray agitations around Kashmir that didn’t involve more than 20 people. However, in an apparent U-turn this week, the ministry blamed “widespread unrest” in Soura on “miscreants”.
A news report originally published in Reuters and appeared in Dawn claims there was a protest involving 10000 people in Srinagar.
This is completely fabricated & incorrect. There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl.
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 10, 2019
Stories in media on a said incident in Soura region of #Srinagar.
On 09/08, miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque. They resorted to unprovoked stone pelting against law enforcement forces to cause widespread unrest.@diprjk @JmuKmrPolice
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 13, 2019
“There are 20-25 Indian channels here. Are they all liars and only one channel is truthful?” Malik said, adding that the footage, when analysed, was found to have been taken from “not one camera but four different angles”.
“If even one person tells me that there was one firing incident, I will give them a reward,” he added.
Asked if there had been no incident of violence at all, Malik responded, “Why are you asking me this question? All the city hospitals are open to you, you can go and check.”
Malik also said Pakistan was attempting to stoke violence in Kashmir.
“Pakistan’s behaviour here is to spread violence, but we are prepared,” he added, “At the border, they are not capable of doing anything, but if they do, they will be punished.”