One of the staunch voices in right wing Bhartiya Janta Party, MLC, Surinder Amberdar in a Face to Face with The Legitimate editor Asem Mohiuddin says that his party will take all possible measures to ensure dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits. He is of firm opinion over the debate on article 370 .Here are the excerpts.
Do you think the legislatures from BJP are responsible for triggering more controversies like on article 370, Sainik colony and other issues?
What is the truth and fact that BJP’s view on J&K is different than other parties. Our alliance with PDP was based on ‘Agenda of Alliance’. And given the circumstances in state we decided that debate initiated on article 370 must be given a restive position till we are in the government. Although I do believe that debate needs to be on article 370 but that doesn’t mean we want to impose it. We want to discuss its merits and limitations. In that context every citizen of J&K has a right to deliberate on this particular issue and to know whether it has benefited or not. So the debate doesn’t mean we are forcibly imposing any kind of decision on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
There were alliances in past like NC-Congress and PDP Congress. But no such tough type of ‘Agenda of Alliance’ was set like yours?
As I told you the fact is that BJP is totally different political party unlike others. It is totally based on cadre and ideology. So far the political parties have ruled this state and country and not governed. We believe in governance and in that context we need to have some issues which would reflect our desire to govern and in ‘Agenda of Alliance’ we have been successful in reflecting that what we desired to govern.
What did you achieve so far in government with your ‘Agenda of Alliance’?
We are in government for one year and in the middle of it due to premature death of former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, there was a brief lull of few months. But overall one year is not enough to judge the performance of any government.
We do not want o judge you. We want to know what you have done on ground during one year in government?
What we need to see is that from last over 25 years due to the turmoil in Kashmir the democratic institutions were collapsed. Now owing to prevailing peace the democratic institutions have excelled in state and the people have started believing in institutions of governance.
That is true but you failed people especially youth of Kashmir who defied boycott calls to participate in elections?
Please go through the content of ‘agenda of alliance’. Earlier in elections there was a contest between people of Kashmir and Jammu and the Ladakh region was isolated. It is first time that all the three regions are on board, and the trust deficit is in descending order
So far the other important areas like unemployment are concerned, what we need to understand that there is saturation in government jobs not in this state only but across country as well. To absorb maximum youth for decent and high level jobs setting up of industrial sector is very important. The industrial policy framed by the government is aimed for the same. But for that people at large especially in Kashmir have to understand that they have to permit these corporate houses, IT companies, manufacturing gaints to set their businesses here and usher an environment where investors feel secure and safe.
We need to understand that the Kashmir narrative we are carrying may not be acknowledged by these industrialists. We all like thinkers, intellectual class, political class, journalists, legal luminaries and other stake holders must come together and join hands for the prosperous and progressive Kashmir and change its political discourse. We have to underline the bullet points how Kashmir can be changed for progress and prosperity and we must also analyze how Kashmiri is viewed across country and globe.
BJP believes changing political discourse in Kashmir is abrogating Article 370 and complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of country?
What we want is complete psychological merger of Kashmir with India however, I would like to debate its (art 370) merits and demerits in the public domain in context of Jammu and Kashmir and the majority opinion and positive view should be considered.
Then what is the way for BJP to change political discourse?
The change in discourse means its implications at all levels I,e cultural ,philosophical, economic and political. We need to identify with the philosophical order and help re-establishing our metaphysical Icons like Nund Rishi and Laleshwari and simultaneously we need to allow scientific advancement to usher in the era of development therefore the aboriginals Kashmiri Pandits who are in exile from last 27 years must return in a dignified manner as their return is a prime parameter of peace narrative.
We all together the civil society and other all institutions of democracy like media and administration and the political institutions should look forward to change political discourse. I mean Kashmir can be education hub globally. It can be the best tourist industry of world and accordingly we can upgrade our horticulture industry since the juice extracted from our apple is much better quality then in other parts of country and will have potential demand in market globally.
The J&K can be IT hub and for that what is important to do we need to engage youth and offer them abundant opportunities to grow. We need to look forward for women empowerment. We have 33 per cent reservations for women in local bodies and Panchayats. We want it to be increased upto fifty per cent.
Why empowerment through reservations not other ways. Isn’t it political gimmick?
We live in border state and it has its own sensitivities and limitations of growth especially for weaker sections. In fact our party want across country to change the political discourse while ensuring maximum participation of weaker sections especially women in the democratic process. And you know that it is a male dominated society and for some time reservations to women is important till they set their feet and become enough confident to compete with their male counterparts.
Do you think the women and youth empowerment is possible in Kashmir which is considered to be largest military zone of world?
The conflict is imposed on our state. It is a border state and we have security issues with our neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan due to which the forces are required to station here. But there is no evidence of having large number of forces deployed in towns and cities.
Do you agree that youth of Kashmir are feeling insecure and are harassed by government forces for some or the other pretext?
There are reports about the harassment of youth across valley but what you have to understand is that the pampering from the reverse camps is much more affecting the psychology of our youth. The confusion and chaos is created among our youth on certain issues which disturbs them mentally. What is important the political, administrative and most importantly religious leadership here must wake up and dare to speak truth.
What is truth for BJP?
The truth is that Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has acceded to India completely and we should accept it and speak for it. It will help to dehypnotize them and bring out of confusion.
Isn’t it dual standard? One side you talk to Pakistan over Kashmir and on the other hand you say Kashmir is not an a political dispute?
There is no question of talking over this part of Kashmir with Pakistan and in fact there is no evidence that it was ever disputed after it acceded to India in 1947. But we believe huge area of Jammu and Kashmir is under illegal occupation of Pakistan and the proxy war in Kashmir has definitely put pressure on Kashmir and huge loss of life and capital has been witnessed in last over 25 years. So in that context there is a controversy where we need to have dialogue.
Do you rule out any conflict in Kashmir?
Yes, there is no conflict here, it is a controversy. We had a unanimous resolution in Parliament in 1994 in which it was declared that Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are integral part of India which is also mentioned in the section II of para III of Jammu and Kashmir constitution. There is no global sanction on it. That is why we have Line of Control (LoC) here and not International border like in Jammu and other parts of country. So there is a controversy which we have to agree upon. Other aspect is that the PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan both regions have gone through some demographic changes for smaller and bigger interests and that is our key concerns.
But it seems India has failed to build consensus in world against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?
It is a sensitive and diplomatic issue and India has racked up this issue with the gravity at all possible fronts. As you know the diplomatic and sensitive issues usually take time to get addressed. And India has not failed but it is pursuing with the global leadership about the areas occupied by China and its investment in PoJK. It is a grave concern for our party.
Do you support separate colonies for Pandits and army men?
I would approve a good colony for journalists, Legislatures as demanded by them. May be the colony word is slightly with negative interpretation in Kashmir but it means offering them good residential areas with all sort of facilities. It is in the same context and we need to acknowledge the services of the people who served in forces and offer them better facilities. The only concern is we need to know who we are offering these colonies. Are they permanent residents of J&K. Otherwise it is a non issue for me. But there are some shops and businesses run by a particular group of people who often try to keep pot boiling and raise unnecessary controversies.
Do you think Pandits if return are unsafe at their ancestral places in composite culture?
Pandits lived here for 5000 years and are unique ethno-religious groups. So there essence to the roots of Kashmiriyat is important for the identity of Kashmir. The Kashmir’s composite culture has two components. One is philosophical or metaphysical and the other is demographic Kashmir.
In that context Pandiths philosophical narrative is represented by Lalsheri or Lal Ded and Muslims spiritual philosophy was represented by Nundreshi and these two together are representing the mystic order of Kashmiriyat. If we miss it the real Kashmir is missed. Unfortunately the alien game plan worked resulting into the exodus of Kashmiri pandits. And the silence of majority community on the exodus of Pandits was a historical tragedy when there are enough evidences of brotherhood of 1947 when Sheikh Sahib (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah) shaped up a local force named Kashmiri militia comprising both pandits and Muslim to protect and safeguard the interests of Kashmiris from alien’s game plan which we missed in 1990 during our exodus.
Though the majority has a role to play in any decision making process that time the Pandits were protected and taken into confidence.
In 1990, the majority community remained silent and just five percent took up the gun which was equal to the total population of pandits. How was it possible for us to stay in Kashmir? Unfortunately our people got trapped into alien scheme of things and it was more or less a revenge of 1971 war.
People blame the then governor Jagmohan for your mass exodus?
The fact is that the violence which erupted in Kashmir in 1990 had a religious demonstration that was evident from the videos, songs and other ways exhibited by the rebellions.
This movement of religious orientation was hatched by Zial-ul-haq in Pakistan with the support of some global agencies and those who have not gone through the pages of history must read before becoming judgemental. It was propaganda of separatists that Jaghmohan was responsible for our exodus.
See I will give you one glaring example of how propaganda was spread: Nilkanth Ganjoo one of the early targets amongst Pandits was killed in May 1989 followed by serial killing of Pandits be it Tika Lal Taploo who was killed in September same year. The final culmination was the kidnapping of Rubia Sayeed in December 1989. Jaghmhan was posted as governor here in January 1990. So this way Pandits had psychologically already left Kashmir although it took some time for them to leave physically. In fact many thousands had already left after these two killings. I again say there was real Kashmiryat missing after majority remained silent and didn’t support us which resulted our mass exodus.
To restore that composite culture of Kashmir again let the majority here call back the Pandits and allow them to settle the way they want. It should be the right of pandits to decide as when and where they will return and settle. No diktats of those vested interested who run their shops politicising pandit return will be accepted. It will be pure prerogative and discretion of Pandits.
The interview first appeared in print edition of June 29, 2016.