Srinagar: Senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former cabinet minister of Jammu and Kashmir Naeem Akhtar Monday said the decisions taken by the Narendra Modi government, including scrapping of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act, have rekindled the Hindu versus Muslim discourse, and created a ‘South Asian Ummah’ (Muslim unity), extending from Khyber (in Pakistan) to Chittagong in Bangladesh.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint ahead of the first anniversary of the government’s Article 370 move, Akhtar described the decision as “marital rape”.
“I would compare the 5 August decision with marital rape because a marriage is done according to rules, according to law, but then there is one party which enforces itself on the other. That is what happened to Kashmir on 5 August. We were part of a covenant, a Constitution, which was used against us to achieve goals that were antitheses of why we had joined the Union of India,” Akhtar, considered the closest adviser of PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti, told ThePrint.
On 5 August, the Modi government revoked Article 370 that granted special powers to J&K, and bifurcated the region into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh with and without an assembly, respectively.
On National Conference vice-president and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah’s statement that he won’t contest the assembly elections until full statehood is restored, Akhtar said the PDP has its own view.
“That is Mr Omar Abdullah speaking for himself. PDP has its own agenda, its own view. Since our president (Mehbooba Mufti) is still (booked) under PSA (Public Safety Act), we will take a call on this,” he said.
“But I have no doubt in my mind that PDP believes that whatever happened on 5 August and later is a direct assault on the identity, faith and culture of Jammu and Kashmir, and Kashmir is its focus target. I don’t think with this being so, it can be business as usual,” said Akhtar, who was detained for around 11 months under the PSA after the Article 370 move.
“Right now, there aren’t many takers for mainstream politics in Kashmir. What Mr Syed Ali Shah Geelani would have done to transfer this anger and alienation against India, Mr Amit Shah has done.
“I don’t see much in our (PDP) politics, but that does not mean that we will not speak. We will certainly use all democratic, constitutional and peaceful means to resist this onslaught on Kashmir and its Muslim character. We will do whatever it takes, but we adopt and stick to democratic means,” said Akhtar, who has served as a close advisor of former Home Minister and J&K chief minister Mufti Sayeed.
‘South Asian Ummah’
Akhtar also spoke about the alliance between the PDP and the BJP, saying: “During the time I was in detention, I understood the meaning for might is right. I understood that there can be no agreements between unequal parties, which is what happened in 1947 when Kashmir acceded to GOI, which is what happened post-2014, when PDP went in an alliance with BJP.”
Akhtar also spoke about the symbolism attached with the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on 5 August. The bhoomi pujan ceremony of Ram Mandir will be held on 5 August, following which the construction of the temple will start.
“Why is this 5 August marked with Ram Mandir? Because the foundation stone of the Hindu Rashtra is Kashmir, which is now mortar brick and stone for Hindu Rashtra. Kashmir has been transformed into a Hindu versus Muslim problem — something which the people of Kashmir did not believe in,” said the 68-year-old leader.
Akhtar also launched a scathing attack on “Hindutva politics” of the BJP and said the prevailing geo-political situation in south Asia will not bode well.
“Now if you see the murmurs from Bangladesh, an all-time friend of India, who owe their liberation to the Indian Army and the political leadership of India, what are they saying today? They have reservations about Ram Mandir.
“You have wittingly or unwittingly created a feeling of a sub-continental ummah from Khyber to Chittagong — by introducing CAA, by specifically making it about Hindus of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and you told the world that India is Hindu. We welcome Hindus,” he added.
‘This was done because we were a Muslim majority state’
Akhtar also said that “in the new Hindutva framework, it is is like an abuse or a sore thumb to have a place called Muslim”.
“Why was this (scrapping Article 370) done? This was a question that I have asked myself frequently. This was done because we were a Muslim majority state.”
Akhtar said the 5 August move was to simply erase “the Muslim dark spot from the bright shining Hindutva map”.
“It was to convert this state into a Hindu majority state. BJP leaders have been saying it openly that we will have a Hindu CM in J&K because they will never be comfortable with a CM wearing a Karakulli (traditional Kashmiri cap) or a headscarf. It is being projected by the BJP as a matter of shame that Babur ki aulad (Babar’s children) are still in Kashmir,” said Akhtar.
‘Biggest let down’
The PDP leader further said: “We have to understand how GOI has considered J&K and it has for a long time, even before 5 August, (considered it) as a security project… this place, which had voluntarily gone over to India and was the only Muslim entity, perhaps the only entity in 1,400 years of Islamic history that gave itself to a non-Muslim secular state. It was unprecedented.
“Our forefathers had joined India thinking that our civilisation will be preserved in a secular democratic India rather than a theocratic country. What was done on 5 August was that a final blow was delivered to this feeling and, in doing that, GOI expected that there would be a massive response to it from the people so they tried to gag everybody and they did it very successfully and unfortunately the rest of the country endorsed this,” he added.
“It was the biggest let down for the people of Kashmir. The media, the Parliament, the judiciary, the intellectuals — nobody spoke for us and a manufactured discourse led entire country to believe that Kashmir has now been conquered and it was projected as a Hindu victory over a Muslim state,” he said.
Responding to a question on why he thought PDP president Mehbooba Mufti continues to be booked under the controversial Public Safety Act, the former minister said, “The Government of India closed all channels of expression and unprecedented drive of arrest was launched, thousands of mainstream workers, who have been facing bullets and all kinds of social ostracisation were hauled up.
“Jails upto Tamil Nadu are filled with Kashmiris, lawyers, traders, activists and politicians. I think after that they did some assessment of malleability of leadership and in that perhaps finding Mehbooba Mufti still a problem in their plan… her detention was extended,” Akhtar said.
Akhtar also said that he was approached by government officials on three occasions asking him to retire from politics in return for his release. “I told them that thousands of Kashmiri boys are going into their graves. What difference will it make if another old man dies in an Indian prison,” he said.
“It is time for every Kashmiri to think beyond parties because there is nothing to fight for. What is there to fight for? There is an existential threat to Muslims of the state and it is no less to non-Muslims of Jammu, who face the same threat.”
“Why did Shiv Sena come into existence in Maharashtra? It was not against Muslims, it was against outsiders who Balasaheb Thackeray at that time thought were taking away jobs and land from the inhabitants. It is happening in Jammu as we speak… Jobs, lands being taken, the first wave of demographic change is coming to Jammu,” he added.