His entry into NC created a political storm between coalition partners. Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar tells Tasavur Mushtaq that without him Congress’s future in Ganderbal is dark.
Sheikh Ishfaq: I am son of late Sheikh Abdul Jabbar, who was a close companion of Sheri Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. My father has spent around 14 years in jail during Rai Shumari movement. He did many courses via correspondence from jail. He became MLC in 1977 and then in 1979, he was elected as MLA from Kangan constituency. That time Lar was part of Kangan. Later he served as cabinet minister under Ghulam Muhammad Shah’s regime. During the times of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, my father used to look after the constituency.
In 1990 when turmoil started, he was shot dead by anti national elements on April 18, 1990, because he was a true Indian.
That time I was studying in 8th standard. Me, my mother and sister lived through miserable times after my father’s death.
My father was such an honest man that the foundation stone of our house was laid by Dr Farooq Abdullah in 1980’s but still the house could not be constructed.
In 2000 I joined police services as sub inspector and later married to a daughter of senior politician Muhammad Syed Akhoon in 2002, which was arranged by Dr Farooq Abdullah.
At the time of elections in 2002, when I was posted in Jammu, there was strong voice emerging in Ganderbal that Ishfaq would fight, but that was not the case. I was told that NC is launching Omar Abdullah from Ganderbal, but the people of Ganderbal wanted to have a local candidate. The people who could have been at the fore front of Ganderbal were not the good choices for the party. I was taken in confidence by NC leadership to support the candidature of Omar Abdullah which I responded by saying that there is no guarantee as public mood is not in favour.
Meanwhile Omar called me and told me to handle Ganderbal, I rejected, citing reason of my job. He offered me monthly income, which again I did not accept. But I promised him support. After Omar lost the seat, he told me that now neither Dr Farooq nor Omar will fight, but Ishfaq. I was under that impression, which ultimately could not realize in 2008.
For Omar, win of 2008 was very important to neutralize the defeat of 2002. It was a point of prestige for him.
KL: There is perception that your entry in NC was facilitated by Muhammad Syed Akhoon, your father in Law?
SI: It is absolutely incorrect. In fact Akhoon sahib was not in favour of my joining the politics and he suffered heavily as there was malicious campaign run against Omar Abdullah in 2008. Video clips of my rally were shown to Omar and that was one of the reasons why Akhoon Sahib was not given mandate in the 2008 election. Now the confusion is being cleared and hopefully Akhoon Sahib will fight from Hazratbal in 2014.
KL: You were 8th standard student and had only mother and sister in the family. How you survived a decade?
SI: God’s grace. We surrendered ourselves to Almighty. I won’t say that we had nothing to eat, but believe me at time we went to sleep without having anything. Reason being I was a kid and had no knowledge what to do and how to do. We even had to seek permission from militants to go outside. We faced difficult times.
KL: Were you approached by PDP in 2008?
SI: Yes, they offered me mandate. I discussed it with my colleagues, workers and people because I don’t take decision without consultation. The response was negative as we knew that PDP is responsible for the land row and the deaths of innocent people. So how was it possible to join a party whose hands were soaked with blood of people of this land? This time again they approached me, I rejected again.
KL: When you joined Congress and why you left it?
SI: I joined congress in 2008. I was given mandate just 15 days before the day of election. That was done with a reason as delay policy was with clear instructions from some external source. Still I managed around 8300 votes.
See in Central Kashmir Congress is nowhere. I am the only candidate who bagged huge number of votes in the history of congress in Kashmir. In Baramulla we had two MLC’s and even president is from that place, but for central Kashmir there was no focus.
Being part of a National party you have to sacrifice the local aspirations and then there is factionalism. You have Azad group, Soz group and now Gani Vakil is also something of his own.
KL: Why NC?
SI: It is home coming for me. Common man in Ganderbal does not vote for Dr Farooq or Omar Abdullah but for the Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Here father tells his son that if you are loyal to me, cast vote for NC as Sheri Kashmir was the person who did so many things for us and importantly abolished laws and liberated us from the slavery. Land to tiller is something which people of this place will never forget. And to tell you honestly I am having friendly terms with Omar Abdullah. I am part of group which includes Devender Singh Rana and Nasir Aslam Wani. Only we had some issues earlier, which were sought out and I am home again.
KL: Your father was part of defection against Dr Farooq Abdullah and then became minister. What you have to Say?
SI: I don’t call it defection. It was just an anger brewing against the leadership because they were ignoring senior guys. As we all know that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah is the tallest leader and he has given surname of ‘justice’ to my father, he used to call him Justice Jabbar. There were conspiracies and thus this happened. And to tell you it was just a faction of NC and not some other party. You see history of Islam, even this is prevalent there.
KL: You are accused by Congress leaders that it is your desperation to have power that led you to join NC?
SI: Laughs. The people who accuse me themselves have fought six elections and they could not save their security deposits. You know even their wives don’t support them, let alone the general public. They have no other option but to remain in Congress, but I am representative of the people. I have to keep interest of people before my own interests. I have to think about the welfare of people.
It is not something I have deceived them. Around two months ago I informed Soz Sahib. His son Salman knows my decision. Earlier when I resigned, the party high command persuaded me. On the death anniversary of my father in April this year, Mohan Prakash came here and promised me in front of people that Ishfaq will be accommodated in next three days, but nothing happened. Even G A Mir, senior congress leader told them that one vote of Ganderbal is equal to 100 votes of Delhi. They should have supported me as I was fighting against the Chief Minister in a constituency which has been their bastion. No congress minister was willing to come to Ganderbal. They used to say, ‘Nahi ji CM ki constituency hai fir problem ho jati hai’. And the people who say, you know those, ‘M Square’. I would have been SP right now, but I left my job for people. Even retired judge came to my house and offered me MLC seat, I refused and said what you have thought about the people who have reposed faith in me. The fact of matter is that even Soz sahib has been weakened by these elements.
KL: Your role in Ganderbal?
SI: In 2010 not even a single boy was booked under PSA. That is because of my personal intervention, I went to SP and talked to him, police had prepared list of around 13 boys, but I persuaded them not to book anyone. Then I managed to have a word with stone pelters. I told them that there are ways to differ but don’t resort to stone pelting as it will be detrimental to their careers. I didn’t ask them to join me or leave their ideologies but only requested them not to pelt stone and not to take law in their hands. This is the reason my vehicle was never targeted and they used to give me safe passage during the clashes.
KL: If again NC decides not to give you mandate in 2014?
SI: It is premature to say anything about this issue. My loyalties are with the party. I am not against anybody I am just a soldier of Omar Abdullah.
KL: If reports are to be believed, NC in Ganderbal is ridden with factionalism. What you have to say about it and then what are your expectations from 2014 election?
SI: I have taken people in confidence before joining NC. Congress now has no vote bank in Ganderbal. It was just one man show. My message to all is that we are one. We have to work as future belongs to regional parties. And the factionalism you are talking about, I don’t see it. Everybody welcomed me. In last elections I bagged more than 8000 votes which will automatically add to NC’s account in next elections. Even people from opposition have joined me and my target is to cross 40000 votes. Let us wait and watch, people will lose security deposits in Ganderbal. If at all there are people in Ganderbal who have reservations about my entry in NC, for them, ‘sawari apne samaan ki khud zimadaar hai.’
Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar