M Yousuf Tarigami, CPIM leader, was interested in politics since he was a child in the 1960s. While in high school, he joined the party of Kissan leader, Abdul Kabir Wani, of whom Tarigami was a great admirer. Thus, the CPIM leader started his career. Saima Bhat in an interview with Tarigami.
Kashmir Life: FDI in retail is the hot debate. You opposed the idea from the very beginning. Tell us what are its pros and cons in your opinion?
Yousuf Tarigami: Our party CPIM, the entire left, some political parties, social activists and some NGOs have always opposed FDI retail. UPA-I is lying about FDI retail trade. This retail trade has been under debate since UPA-I, and that time they were dependent on Left groups (part of a coalition) and we didn’t allow it to happen. The issue was debated in Parliament and in almost every political party, and it was decided that the trade won’t be allowed to happen, because it will increase unemployment figures.
If it does not help us in promoting growth then how can the trade help us? The USA, a developed country, was crushed due to this trade and they are suffering from this new liberalisation. Americans are crying ‘please put a stop to greedy cooperates’, they are facing massive unemployment. So if you want to have a strong economy then you must have to guarantee jobs for your population, and unless that is done, any measure in economic reform is bound to create problems for people—and is therefore unacceptable to us.
This crushed a nation like the USA, a world power. For countries like India, it is very important to first provide food for its starving population. Statistics reveal the Indian economy is increasing but people should understand that the economy is of the corporate world and of monopolists. Once NDA said India is shining, but I want to ask them which India? The corporate world does not mean India, what about middle and lower class families? If India was shining, then why do farmers go for suicides, why do people wander from corner to corner for jobs? This new liberal frame has failed miserably, not only in India, but in the whole world, earlier it was in the US only, and now it has destroyed the UK too.
I feel there is no future for the younger generation. The government says we have to be with global economies, but we say it has collapsed. So why to be part of failed economies? This trade does not suit our population. It must be rejected.
KL: The government launched a new employment policy recently. Do you think it is in the interest of youth?
YT: The situation of we the people of Jammu and Kashmir is quite critical. Presently, there are many challenging areas at a political level and at the governance level, but in the future, the growing unemployment of our state is going to be a big challenge for all of us.
On part of Government, there is no serious attempt for developing the industrial sector, we just have a small unit in HMT that has virtually collapsed and in Jammu, and there is at least some development but it is not up to the mark. The situation is such in Kashmir where no one—not even locals—want to invest in Kashmir. The government is not making any effort to make investments, and if they claim they are doing anything—it is either insignificant or invisible.
I feel Government should have invested in such fields where there can be hope or scope of development like agriculture and horticulture. Whatever people are doing in these fields, they are doing of their own, they are using their own skills as the government supported schemes have not promoted it to extend it was expected to.
And other schemes like Sher-i-Kashmir employment scheme also didn’t give any satisfactory results, what was achieved under the scheme was again an insignificant result. The current government did show some enthusiasm in the beginning, but then it went down. There is another sector where development is needed, tourism. But it is dependent on the political situation.
The new employment policy means you are taking people on contracts (contractual), where people have to bear minimum wages for 3 to 5 years and it was raised in Jammu but not in Kashmir as we lack a louder voice.
I accept people having their Masters’ degrees work for just Rs. 1500 under ReT’s but that is only because of unemployment and they feel they are doing at least something to survive. I raised this question in Assembly when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was CM of state that they are exploiting people by making them work on minimal wages but the then Finance Minister said ‘by giving contracts we can get 10 people on one man’s salary (15000) rather than having a permanent employee’ and I replied to that minister then we can also get more contractual ministers on your Ministerial ship. But certainly, the government must think about this problem.
People don’t feel there is any future or a good life, in Assembly somebody raised question unrest is responsible but then I discussed the issue that all happened because people feel they are not secure, they feel there is no justice, we have to think for youth development after which we had Ranga-Rajan job package. On one hand, they are increasing the number of colleges and universities but on another hand, they are increasing the number of educated unemployed youth.
At one point in time in the ’90s when GOI thought of implementing the act in J&K for the prevailing situations and introduced the army under Governor’s rule and then declared certain some parts as disturbed, at that time, the civil administration had virtually collapsed. But now the situations are much better.
In 2004, I met PM Manmohan Singh, and I suggested to him why can’t we identify some areas where there is less violence which is reasonably not so disturbed, and declare them as ‘Peace Zones’, remove the army from those areas and hand over the charge to local police and see how it works. If the results are good, then we can extend the proposal to other areas as well.
The PM finally said to talk to the CM, but Mufti sahib didn’t forward my proposal. Even earlier at the time of ceasefire, I seriously campaigned for a unilateral ceasefire, and many people opposed that also.
Then in 2007, I wrote a letter to PM that compared to 90’s the situation in J&K has changed. All of the concerned people say there is a change in the situation and then doesn’t it require a reassessment of the situation? And I suggested keeping in view our own assessments I firmly believe laws like ASPA are not required here, which is on record.
In the national political meet, my party raised the issue again to do at least this much, this minimum for the people of Kashmir. My party, we were the first, who suggested there should be a parliamentary delegation that can visit Kashmir to check the ground situation and after that, the parliamentary delegation suggested certain measures to Home Minister and announced the eight-point formula which states the Unified Command should review the disturbed areas act (DAA). But nothing was actually done on the ground.
It is not disrespectful to any institution. The army is a very important institution as far as the country is concerned, but should this institution publically enter into the debate of politics, which falls in the political domain? That is why I have suggested them to not make it a gimmick from either side. I told them people are watching you, so better would be if you talk to the cabinet people in the centre and in sate as well and take a final decision. People of J&K don’t want just debates and statements they want solutions, they want something concrete happening on the ground.
We introduced a separate amendment bill on PSA and I am going to raise it again. These acts are not there to provide any relief to people. I don’t think there is any need of having such acts; it can be amended if needed for safety. And I was the first victim of PDA(preventive detention act) which was later changed into PSA.
KL: Afzal Guru Clemency was raised in assembly by Engineer Rashid, but was not supported, and also you were not in the Assembly?
YT: We as a party firmly believe that death sentence is not required not for Afzal Guru and neither for any person living in Tamil Nadu or in Mumbai. The whole left believes death sentences are not required, we feel it is a harsh response to any heinous crime. Terrorism is condemnable but the death sentence is not, you have to prevent the crime as death sentences have not proved deterrent to the crime itself. I think death sentences must be avoided. And I do raise the issue in the House.
KL: You were part of the previous coalition, and now you are also a part of the House. Why don’t you oppose issues within instead of coming on the roads? Are you fulfilling roles of both the ruler and opposition?
YT: I oppose the issues on the floor of the House. I have been selected by my people to talk for them, and I believe I have done justice on my part. In the house, discussions are required but you can’t effort to just disarm your people unless the parliamentary activity is supported by vagrant resistance of people otherwise that will not yield any result.
Assembly and parliament is a place where laws are framed but certainly, people have to be on struggling path to persuade the legislature and parliamentarian to move in that direction which is useful to people.
KL: CBMs announced by the government of India were not implemented and now, the interlocutors’ report of interlocutors is being shadowed. What is your take?
YT: This is the long list of promises given to Kashmiris and then they are never implemented. That is our concern and this is the reason why Kashmiris have lost their hope. Our party has been of the opinion of having parliamentarian people rather than interlocutors. Interlocutors also did a commendable job, they worked hard, they talked to everybody and then submitted their report but we want Government should make the report open for discussion at a public level so that the Parliament can discuss the report and make a suggestion. But I feel it has been presently added in the disillusionment list.
KL: Mass graves, disappeared people, half widows are the issues which are not being talked about by politicians. Is development the only issue they should talk about?
YT: No it’s not like that; we the people of the House have always talked about human rights issues. I believe governance is important. Human rights violations are an issue, and it has become a part of our lives, it is not an ordinary issue, we don’t ignore it. Development is also for people, and it cannot be put on the back burner.
KL: How you rate the performance of the government?
YT: Let us wait, let people decide for whom the government was established. But I personally think they haven’t met the expectations of people. I suggest they come out of their slumber and do justice to people. On the ground, dissatisfaction is widespread.
KL: Communists had a huge influence in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir. At one point in time, ‘every progressive politician’ was actually influenced by the Russian and Chinese brands of communism. Is there a downfall now?
YT: At an international level, after Soviets downfall, there was a big change and retreat as well. Some people like theorists and ideologist of different shades said it is the final log from history, and they said capitalism is the only solution. But today we tell them it is not, now we tell them alternatives are required, socialism is required keeping in view the present situations. People need better alternatives and better solutions for a better future. The struggle continues and there remains a scope to learn more. I feel we communists must learn from and must understand from the present situation and develop certain new strategies.
KL: A newspaper once reported that in Kulgam, Tarigami’s red is actually green from the inside. How did you manage this?
YT: Ah! (Laughs). You see, green is Kashmir, green is everywhere. I love Kashmiri ethos the most. I can’t detach myself from them and I want to contribute in a good future with ‘Kashmiri characteristics’ for Kashmiris.
Once an American ambassador came to Kashmir said you are an optimist. I told him optimism is the essence of our ethos, we have witnessed sufferings not only by locals but by others as well. We have been a tolerant society. There had been pressures, but despite all pressures, we have not perished, we have sustained, we have succeeded in resisting. It is a characteristic of Kashmir ethos, and I am proud to be a Kashmiri.