I’m ashamed of the civilian killings and scared of what more might happen; there’s widespread fear in the Valley; but rest of India has turned its back on Kashmir and gone to sleep: President, People’s Conference, Sajad Lone
In a very outspoken and often emotional and heartfelt interview, one of the Kashmir Valley’s prominent and senior politicians has said he is “ashamed” by the targeted killings of civilians in the Valley but also “scared” about what more might happen.
Sajad Lone, the President of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, said he feels “the worst is not over”. Asked if he was worried there could be more targeted killing of civilians and more terror, Mr. Lone said he couldn’t rule it out and that is what he is worried about.
In a 35-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Sajad Lone also said the people of the rest of India have turned their back and let down the Kashmiri people. He said “they have gone to sleep”. Yet the paradox is only pressure brought by the people of India can change the way the Modi government looks at and acts in Kashmir. This means that just when the Kashmiri people need the support of their fellow citizens south of the Banihal line they have, instead, been let down by them.
Speaking to The Wire about Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s administration in Srinagar, he said “it’s on another planet”. Mr. Lone said the government’s administration does not understand the Kashmiri people and in many instances it has brought in officials and police officers from outside the state who may be very good people but do not understand the situation and do not have a connection with the Kashmiri people. He said the mass arrests of 700 or 800 is not an answer or a solution to the problem. He called it “a randomised response”. This can only embitter and alienate people because many who are innocent will be wrongly picked up.
However, Mr. Lone does not accept that the situation is returning to the dark days of the ’90s for two reasons. First of all, he said, what happened in the ’90s has, in one shape or form, continued thereafter for several decades. It’s only the intensity that has differed. Secondly, there are very few Kashmiri Pandits left in the Valley. You will not have a mass migration as you did in the ’90s. A few will leave but Mr. Lone was confident they will return when things improve.
Mr. Lone was more worried about the non-local workers, who are leaving in their hundreds or thousands. He said they are critical to the functioning of the Kashmiri economy. But, again, he made two points. Many of these workers anyway leave in November. This time they are going a little earlier. Secondly, they will return when winter is over.
Speaking of the Kashmiri people i.e. the majority Muslim population of the Valley, Mr. Lone said they were “pained” and “angry” at what was happening. He also said that there was a pall of fear that has spread through the Valley and everyone is worried or scared about what could happen.
However, in the interview to The Wire, Mr. Lone said he does not accept or give credit to interpretations that suggest that the targeted killings of Hindus and Sikhs is an attempt by Islamist terrorists at ethnic cleansing of the Valley, nor does he accept that the killings are designed to cut-off Kashmir from the rest of the country and perhaps provoke a massive reaction against Muslims in other parts of India.
Mr. Lone said that the last 20 days have proven that the claim made by the administration, both in Delhi and Srinagar, that the situation in Kashmir is normal is just rhetoric. The truth is very different.
In the interview to The Wire, Mr. Lone called forcefully and repeatedly for the immediate restoration of statehood followed immediately by fresh elections. As he put it, “statehood should be announced as I walk out of the door” of this studio.
Asked if he believed the Modi government was likely to listen to such advice, Mr. Lone said the only people who can make the Modi government listen are the people of India. However, he added, the people of India have turned their back on Kashmir and let it down.
He says Kashmiris feel betrayed by the fact that the rest of the country “has gone to sleep” as far as Kashmir is concerned.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Sajad Lone’s interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire.