Known for being one of the most vocal political leaders in Kashmir, Mohammad Akbar Lone has been largely silent since New Delhi stripped J&K of its autonomy in August last. Umar Mukhtar caught up with him in the midst of his meeting with party workers in Srinagar to ask his opinion about recent political developments in the Valley and the upcoming launch of a new political party
Kashmir Life: In a recent interview to Kashmir Life, Altaf Bukhari expressed his deep admiration for Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad?
Akbar Lone (AL): It is his personal view. He wants to be Bakshi. He wants to be a stooge of the Centre. In fact, he already is. He is a stooge in the hands of IB. His command is in their hands.
KL: You mean Bakshi was a stooge?
AL: Yes, of course. He was a stooge. Everyone knows that.
KL: Bukhari talks about ‘achievable goals’ for Kashmir. He says the revocation of Article 370 can’t be reversed?
AL: He has his own imagination and logic. He talks non-sense. But as far as our party is concerned, we will fight it out till the end to get Article 370 and Article 35A back. There is no question of surrender. As a party man, I say we will fight it out.
KL: Your party and the PDP have shelved their politics since the withdrawal of J&K autonomy. Why should you wait for the release of top leaders? Doesn’t this mean that New Delhi is right in saying that the NC and the PDP are dynastic parties?
AL: I don’t agree with you, we have never said that we will not do politics. Even this time we are doing politics and doing what is necessary. We have only said that our leadership is behind bars and in their absence, we are not as active as we should have been.
Also, there is no dynastic rule in our party. Sheikh Abdullah was a very tall personality and after him, his son Farooq Abdullah proved popular among people.
It was said that no one outside the party can be the general secretary of the National Conference, but we have made Ali Mohammad Sagar our general secretary. So, we have proved we are not a dynastic party.
KL: Will your party participate in future elections?
AL: We will definitely participate in elections provided our leadership is released. Then our party will sit, deliberate and decide what we should do.
KL: What if they are not released?
AL: We don’t know about that. As on date, we are not in favour of elections unless and until the leadership is released.
KL: Agreed, you have some important leaders behind bars, but there are still others who are free and lakhs of workers on the ground. Then why don’t you give direction to people?
AL: Yes, our people are there. People are coming to our headquarters. In fact, we do meetings on a regular basis. What else we can do?
KL: You prepare them for elections?
AL: They are our party workers and we need to be in touch with them, so we are. We do the routine meetings and it is not like preparing them for elections. This is basically how a party works even in difficult times.
KL: You son was also arrested under PSA. Do you think it was done to break your will?
AL: Nobody can intimidate Akbar Lone with such things. I am not afraid that my son is behind bars and it will not stop me from being vocal about the situation in Kashmir.
My son has his own role. He was arrested for his political activities.
KL: This is the first time you participated in Parliamentary elections and won by a huge margin. But the Akbar Lone who was most vocal in Assembly was not seen talking much in Parliament. Why is real Akbar Lone missing from the scene?
AL: There is a reason. You have 545 MPs in parliament and amidst such a large number, mine and the voice of another colleague gets less noticed. We have been asking for our rights. We have been fulfilling our duties.
KL: Do you think that the NC’s demand for the reversal of scrapping of Article 370 is achievable? If yes, then what is the road map?
AL: We have to get back to Article 370. Similarly, we have to get back Article 35A. Our roadmap for it is to mobilize our people for a peaceful fight to regain our rights.
KL: Is the NC in touch with New Delhi?
AL: Whatsoever we have to say we say in parliament, not outside it. We do not demand anything from New Delhi.
KL: But you said because of the sheer number of MPs, your voice is not heard in parliament?
AL: What can we do? We go to the president, to the press, to other people to demand our democratic rights. And we do that.
KL: Do you think that New Delhi will listen to your demands?
AL: Of course today or tomorrow, they will have to. It is not Kerala or Rajasthan. It is Jammu and Kashmir. It is a quite different state from other states of India. We have a different relationship with India. We are not beggars, where we have to beg for things.
KL: Where actually is this difference between us and the other states?
AL: Ours is the state which was there even before 1947. They have just snatched that right from us. That doesn’t mean that we will not pursue it, we will get it back.
KL: Are you hopeful that in current government it is achievable?
AL: Yes, of course, it is.
KL: How can Akbar Lone be so sure that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who have withdrawn Article 370 and 35A, will roll it back?
AL: Because we will continue our efforts.
KL: There was Gupkar Declaration (parties had come together to oppose nullification of Article 370) prior to the abrogation of Article 370?
AL: Yes there was a declaration. People came to Dr Farooq Abdullah with a hope that we all will fight together and save our state. Parties are still in touch with one another but the PDP has lost faith and credibility among the masses.
KL: Political analysts say the Members of Parliament from Kashmir should have resigned in protest withdrawal of J&K’s special status?
AL: Why should we resign? If our resignation would get us something back I will resign here and now. At least we can talk in Parliament, voice our concerns there.
KL: A new party is being soon launched in Kashmir. How is it going to hurt the National Conference and the other parties?
AL: It is not the about the NC or other parties. This party is being brought into existence by IB. They want them to be here at the helm of affairs. They were there in 1953 and 84 and many other times. These people have just shown their faces and are now unmasked.
KL: There is speculation that some members of the NC will join this party?
AL: Certainly, no one will join. Akbar Lone is saying that no one from the NC will join. Not even a single worker.