Trained lawyer and wife of former Deputy Chief Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, Safeena Beigh, who won her DDC election from Wagoora after defeating the PAGD and Apni Party candidate told Yawar Hussain
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): You independently contested the District Development Council elections? Are you still with PDP?
SAFEENA BEIGH (SF): I haven’t formally resigned as Peoples Democratic Party’s Women Wing President but I am not part of the party anymore. My husband (Muzaffar Hussain Beigh) has parted ways with the party, how can I continue? I respect Mehbooba Mufti; she will always be my elder sister. We have no personal differences but our political paths are different now. I don’t believe in hypocrisy. I believe in merit and she knows I have always been outspoken.
KL: Along with you a lot of people left the PDP. Who is responsible for this?
SF: If there are weaknesses within a family, how can one blame someone else? There were weaknesses in PDP and that is why people left it. Altaf Bukhari was a businessman and he was given a mandate by the party. What was his contribution? The people who had worked for the party for decades, people who left everything for the party were sidelined. I ask Mehbooba Ji to introspect someday for the sake of God and ask her conscience whether injustice was committed towards stalwarts of PDP who were close to Mufti (Sayeed) Sahab. You (Mehbooba Mufti) empowered such people who didn’t deserve it. They hadn’t built PDP. It was the other way round.
KL: Is that what made you leave the party?
SF: I have always personally asked Mehbooba Ji whether she did justice to the PDP leaders and workers who built the party. I believe she would have to either answer here or in the hereafter about the treatment meted out to a lot of people. I still feel PDP is my home. I have given 18 years of my life to it. But was there no nepotism and favouritism, was merit not discredited in PDP. Were there no conspiracies? Wasn’t all strength employed to conspire against (Muzzafar) Beigh Sahab. What happened to Qazi Afzal who stood for 45 years by Mufti (Sayeed) Sahab’s side? What happened to Tariq Hameed Karra? Delhi might have fiddled (with the party affairs) but they only did when they were given a chance.
KL: So is Mehbooba to be blamed then?
SF: Mufti Sayeed treated me like his daughter. If he wouldn’t have gone so soon, this won’t have happened to PDP. Towards the end, he had realized what sort of people had come into his party but he left without being able to rectify it. When undeserving people are put on positions they aren’t fit to hold then institutions collapse; that is what happened to PDP. PDP nominated every kind of people to Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly, and erstwhile Legislative Council.
KL: Would you contest an assembly election in the future?
SF: That is still far away. Don’t know when and how the election would be conducted. But my first wish till then is that something should happen in Jammu and Kashmir which gives the common people a respite both politically and administratively.
KL: Baramulla has a fractured mandate. Has the Apni Party or PAGD approached you?
SF: Frankly speaking, I haven’t thought about this yet. I didn’t even get time to ponder on this. People do approach but what would PAGD or Apni Party do isn’t known to me. This seat might be reserved for a woman as DDC chairman, let the notification come and then I will see.
KL: Winning candidates have switched parties. Do you believe this is morally wrong?
SF: On morality, such people can answer for themselves but unfortunately, such things happen and that is why politics is termed as a dirty game.
KL: For the first time seats were reserved for women in Jammu and Kashmir. Would this empower them?
SF: Definitely, it would empower women. As per the law, there should be a 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assembly elections both. This is a good thing and more work should be done on the subject.
KL: Do you believe women weren’t empowered in Jammu and Kashmir prior to this?
SF: Women weren’t just disempowered in Jammu and Kashmir; they were disempowered throughout India. There was a reservation for women at district levels in many places in the country but there was no reservation for women at the assembly and parliament level even in those states. And this is not only the responsibility of the government but also of the political parties. They need to have a big heart. A woman in our society isn’t allowed to be at par with men in challenging jobs. Women are empowered in all sectors but not in electoral politics where actually decisions on empowerment are taken. A woman would always be more comfortable talking to a woman representative on her issues than to a man. The women, fifty per cent of the human resource are left disempowered.
KL: As development has been the championed narrative in these elections. How do you see it and what does development mean to you?
SF: Obviously, these elections are definitely for development. There is no question about that. Every block and constituency has its own issues and problems. Major issues in Wagoora and Sangrama areas pertain to water supply and electricity. There is an issue of connectivity as well. Education and health sector issues are also there. Ningli Nallah needs restructuring as it submerges a lot of areas in my constituency. A lot needs to be done.
KL: Dynasty has been an issue in Jammu and Kashmir politics. Are you a benefactor of it?
SF: If a doctor’s son/daughter chooses the same profession, then it is alright, same is in case of kith and kin of businessmen or any other professional but in politics, this problem arises because a group of people who have formed a party react when an outsider comes through dynasty. But I am thankful to God that I never became a nominated lawmaker because people would have then said that I was rewarded for being Muzzafar Hussain Beigh’s wife. I never got the party’s mandate to contest as well. I have been in politics for almost 18 years now. When Beigh sahib was a parliamentarian, people used to ask me to grab on to some political post which I used to find cheap. I even asked Mehbooba Ji to let me work for the party and then adjust me on merit. Today, I have risen from the ground in these elections. Now, nobody can term me a parachute. In these polls, Beigh Sahab didn’t even call a single person for me.
KL: Muzzafar Beigh contested and represented the Baramulla assembly segment many times. Are you going to contest from there or is Sangrama your baby now?
SF: All these people of Baramulla and Sangrama are our own people. In Baramulla, only thing is that Javed Hassan Beigh switched parties once or twice without Muzzafar Beigh’s consent. That was unfortunate but his (Javed) contribution to Baramulla cannot be questioned by anyone. He was among the founding members of PDP. We had problems amongst us but still, I will say the truth that his public dealing is immaculate. PDP won in Baramulla this time around only because an environment had developed there against the Apni Party and Muzzafar Beigh hadn’t put up his candidates there. Those who won are our people who wanted me to contest from there. Beigh (Muzzafar) Sahab couldn’t have intervened in DDC elections but at the time of assembly polls, he would. Why would we leave or concede our area? Do you believe Muzzafar Beigh would leave it?
KL: Article 370 has defined the politics of Jammu and Kashmir for over a year now. Where do you stand on it personally?
SF: Article 370 in my belief was not a temporary provision but a permanent article of the Indian Constitution. The word temporary was only there because the Jammu and Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly, existent at that time, was given the power to decide whether to keep it or let it go. But in 1954, the Constituent Assembly passed a resolution on it, and then subsequently it (Constituent Assembly) got dissolved in 1956, thereby declaring it to be a permanent feature of the constitution. After that nobody had the powers to abrogate it. But a majority in Parliament, comprising not just of the BJP but also of other the parties including Congress voted for its abrogation. The matter is sub-judice in Supreme Court but I believe that its abrogation wasn’t done constitutionally and the court would uphold that.
The government of India shouldn’t have taken revenge on the people of Jammu and Kashmir if they were not happy with some politicians here. Nobody wants you to not pursue corruption or terror funding cases against some politicians. You have take action but don’t punish common people
They had to own Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than taking this, they should have given something more. Politically J&K isn’t important in terms of parliament seats but strategically we are because of Pakistan and China. When states in the northeast are given assurances by the Union Home Minister following a small protest, then why are they treating us like this? Either you tell us that you don’t require the people then we will sit quietly in a corner and hope nothing from you. Governments come and go but when a person is in power he has to have a big heart. Narendra Modi is everybody’s Prime Minister and he doesn’t have to further BJP’s policy. He is Prime Minister of Kashmiri people as well. I am still hopeful that a genuine leadership with a realistic approach can convince our Prime Minister what we need back in terms of Articles 370 and 35-A. But we need it without the politics of drama and blackmailing under which threats were issued against harming India.