President Awani Ittehad Party (AIP) and MLA Langate, Er Abdul Rashid, after getting 22,090 votes in the Baramulla constituency in the last LS Elections, is all set to contest the upcoming Legislative assembly polls. In conversation with Syed Asma, Rashid talks about Article 370, dynastic rule, his party’s hopes from upcoming Assembly elections and his expectations from Modi Sarkaar
Kashmir Life (KL): Did you expect that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would sweep the votes in Lok Sabha Polls 2014?
Abdul Rashid (AR): No, I did not expect. Before polls, the general perception among people was that National Conference (NC) would win seats from centre and north and PDP would win the seat in south but that did not happen. I expected people would vote for AIP, though we are newcomers and are not rich in resources because for last many years NC and PDP had let people down, right from 1996. The results suggest people are satisfied with the policies of NC and PDP. I consider them both as killers and collaborators of killers. I personally did not want any of them to win. We were expecting New Delhi to talk on UN resolute but they failed us. They have destroyed Kashmir and will be doing so in the coming times as well. We can see how Narendra Modi and his party are trying to abolish Article 370.
KL: What is your stance on Article 370, should it go or it should remain?
AR: Article 370 has nothing to do with the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. India should take autonomy as a step, move forward and talk about other issues. Rather than thinking of permanent resolution of the dispute. They are talking about abolishing Article 370. It is arrogance of India and failure of Kashmiri leadership.
Article 370 should not go and Omar Abdullah while saying that it [Article 370] is the only link between India and Kashmir is absolutely wrong because even if article 370 is restored in its original form, Kashmir will still remain a disputed territory. Assuming autonomy is restored, will Kashmir become integral part of India? No! Article 370 is purely an internal adjustment and a constitutional guarantee.
KL: Do you feel Article 370 is intact and its existence still makes a difference?
AR: Undoubtedly it is eroded a lot but whatever we have [left in the Article] India has no right to snatch those clauses from us. More importantly whenever we talk of UN resolutions the Indian government accuses us of talking against the Constitution of India. Article 370 is part of their constitution, if they are thinking of fiddling with it they should understand they are violating their own constitution and BJP is the front runner in that.
KL: Did you expect Nawaz Sharief would side-line the separatist leadership while visiting New Delhi?
AR: Pakistan is at a weak wicket itself so it is playing smart. We can analyse the statements that Nawaz gave after he met Modi. He said, “We are here to resolve all the issues with India.” He didn’t even mention the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. So, it is failure of separatist leadership of Jammu and Kashmir who relied on Pakistan for past many decades. Separatist leaders should explain, do we deserve this after relying on Pakistan for past quarter century? Let’s assume, I was a part of Modi’s cabinet, the separatist leaders would have called me a traitor. Then so is Dr Jitandra because he is son of the same soil. Besides, Nawaz Sharief was a part of the swearing-in ceremony where Dr Jitandra took his oath. Pakistan has always supported us in election boycotts, so Nawaz Sharief should have walked out of the place when Dr Jitandra took his oath. This suggests Sharief has accepted our son of soil as an MP of India.
KL: Are you satisfied with the performance of your party?
AR: Yes we are satisfied with our performance. We are just a seven month old party and lack proper resources but still performed well. People did vote for us. Honestly, I have been the only person in our assembly who has talked about Afzal Guru, whose hanging was mourned across Kashmir. I wish people would recognise my work in a better way. Besides, I did my campaigning without security cover in my own car, which I have bought many years ago for Rs 50,000 [laughs]. I believe I would have performed better if I and my party would have presented our work in a better way in front of people. Besides, I am thankful to people of Langate who have never let me down. I have had never any public meeting there.
KL: What are your expectations from the upcoming Assembly elections keeping in view your political party which is still in its infancy and has less resource as you say?
AR: The expectations are high because we will work on mobilising people. The results in Legislative assembly would be entirely different because parliamentary and assembly elections are two different games. I have got votes from Bandipora, Handwara, Lolab, Uri and a few from Rafiabad. Our resources will get improved as people have started donating. People in Langate have donated Rs 100 each besides some well-wishers making it a sum of Rs 8-9 lakh. Actually, people knew the party will not make it to the parliament so they voted for biggies but in assembly election local factors would play wonders and our vote share would automatically rise.
At least this time I will not be in assembly alone, “Assembly Mein Akailay Buhat Dar Lagta Hai.” [laughs].
KL: After LS poll results PDP is visible all over, are you in any way joining them or supporting them?
AR: It is more of an anti-NC sentiment than a pro PDP wave. Any party could have cashed it, if people would have seen the other contesting parties and their work including my party. Perhaps, AIP did not have time and resources then. I had fifteen assembly segments in my constituency. Had I afforded two vehicles and sent my volunteers in the segments, results would have been different! Besides, I do not think people are much interested in Lok Sabha elections they just wanted to give a lesson to Dr Farooq. People would be repenting, had there been any powerful voice from the Valley they would be asking Modi and BJP about their stance on article 370.
But yes if PDP or any other individual or party would promise to get mortal remains of Afzal Guru and talk of self-rule and double currency in Indian Parliament I will love to join my hands with PDP.
KL: Others talked of development but you talked about Kashmir dispute while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections. Why?
AR: Yes, I have been talking about Kashmir dispute while campaigning but I have never side-lined or ignored development. And it is not only me, PDP while campaigning was saying “Afzal Goor yaad thaw PDPus vote traaw” (Remember Afzal Guru and vote for PDP). It is another part of the story that it was the same PDP who ditched me in the legislative assembly when I talked about Guru after his hanging. I believe we [our party] should run sentiment and development parallel to each other. When there is peace then only development is possible. And peace will prevail when you resolve the political dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
KL: Do you have any expectations from Modi Sarkaar?
AR: Yes, I had expectations and he is proving them right. I have expected that Modi would cancel all the orders of Migrant properties that Muslims have purchased and he would talk about repealing of Article 370. It was quite expected as he has been open about their national agendas. Even if the Imam of Jamia Masjid Delhi is the Indian Prime Minister, it is all dark for Kashmiris in India. Besides, if liberal and secular Indian National Congress can hang Afzal Guru, I will not be surprised if hardliner Modi hangs Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or Yusuf Tarigami, let alone the separatist leaders, to satisfy the collective conscience of the Indian nation. They [Muftis and Abdullah] too can be booked for saying something anti-national.
KL: Are Kashmiri MPs going to make any difference in the Indian parliament?
AR: Our six seats in Indian Parliament is a big opportunity to avail. I am being both optimistic and pragmatic. Leading by the example of India, how they fought British, we can definitely bring a change if we wish to. This time around I think Kashmir will go into the Parliament with the fractured mandate, because the 3 MPs of BJP will be talking in one voice for example abolition of Article 370. This is what our boycott has resulted in- a stronger voice of BJP.
KL: What according to you should change in Kashmir’s politics?
AR: Dynasty rule. In my family no one will ever contest election besides me. I have made it a point that no one will ask for vote in my name at least 10 years after I die.
KL: Do you think you have any other powerful face in your party other than yours? I mean is there any other Er Rashid in AIP?
AR: Till 2008, Er Rashid was a no body. It is only my work and connection with people which made me what I am today. We do have young and new faces in the party and I am sure they too will make a significant mark.
MESSAGE: Kashmiris should decide what they want. Hurriyat congratulated people for successful boycott, let people ask the Hurriyat leadership the dividends of boycott. NC and PDP also thanked people for casting their votes, let people ask for the dividends they voted for.