Senior National Conference leader and former minister Ajay K Sadhotra tells Kashmir Life
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): So how was the last year of development and progress without Article 370?
AJAY SADHOTRA (AJ): Since August 5, 2019 development of Jammu and Kashmir has come to a standstill.
KL: The BJP government said by decimating the Kashmir monopoly over the power structure it will get justice to Jammu. A year after, which disparities were addressed?
AS: BJP has always been in divisive politics and has exploited people in the name of religion and region. But it is also a fact that people gave them a huge mandate so that they form the government. PDP was the big brother in the BJPDP alliance. The fact is that the people of Jammu are feeling duped since 2014 not to talk of the year starting from August 5. Youth in Jammu have lost jobs, and unemployment has increased manifold. The dream of bringing big industrial houses for investment proved to be Mongeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne.
KL: What had been the state of governance in last one year?
AS: In Jammu and Kashmir there is total misgovernance. The kisan, youth, traders, people from tourism, industry, and transport and even common man, feels there is nobody to listen to their problems. Their miseries have increased manifold and this all is happening in the name of on-line redressal of problems because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. People have no power to charge their cell phones for days together because of outages not to talk of online interaction with the officials. Corruption has been institutionalized and big fish are scot-free. You remember Employees Insurance Scheme scam in which it was alleged that there was a misappropriation of Rs 60 lakhs. Now a power project in Kishtwar is under the scanner of CBI.
KL: After the government introduced the domicile system, why was there rush in Jammu, tens of thousands of people applying for the certificate. Who are these people, locals or non-locals?
AS: These are a few sections of the society. Valmikis, West Pakistan refugees, Gorkhas and even employees are rushing for the domicile certificate. The people already having Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC) are feeling harassed and are getting the Domicile Certificates and tragedy is that they are forced to grease the palms of the issuing authorities. It is miserable.
KL: An impression in Kashmir is that Jammu will be the first to undergo a demographic shift. Is it correct or mere propaganda?
AS: Definitely thrust will be on Jammu. Hardly people will like to go to Kashmir. Jammu will suffer in the long run.
KL: There have been a series of interventions in the governance system. Since the Jammu had given the mandate to the BJP, are people happy now?
AS: Next elections will tell how the double standard of BJP will get exposed.
KL: There is also an impression in Kashmir that Jammu is being punished for being part of Kashmir. Do you see the same impression in Jammu also?
AS: After disempowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir by dividing the state into two Union Territories people are disgusted in Jammu as well as in Kashmir. People think about what has happened to them after giving a huge mandate to BJP.
KL: What is the state of politics in Jammu. Most of the political leaders from across parties in Jammu were, by and large, free in comparison to Kashmir?
AS: BJP government behaves as if there is only BJP in Jammu and Kashmir. So there are restrictions on the activities of other parties.
KL: Early 2020, NC leadership from Jammu flew to Srinagar and met party president when he was in detention. He is free now. Why there has not been any meeting?
AS: We met Dr Farooq sahib and Omer Sahib during detention and after their release also. However, Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by the government are the key factors. Moreover, withdrawal of vehicles and security of our people is also a reason.
KL: The ecosystem of politics has changed in Jammu and Kashmir. Where from should it start now and how?
AS: National Conference is the major political mainstream party in Jammu and Kashmir and its Working Committee will sit and take the final call. It is a good step that Dr Farooq sahib tried to convene a meeting of all mainstream political leaders and parties. But you saw what was its fate, barbed wires returned to the Gupkar Road on the day of the scheduled meeting.
KL: What do you think it must start from, demand for restoration of statehood or the special status?
AS: National Conference is fighting for the restoration of Special Status and 35A in the Supreme Court. We have full faith in Indian Judiciary. I feel we should vigorously fight in Supreme Court. Rest let the Working Committee decide.
KL: Do you foresee any election or outreach or an attempt at reconciliation from Delhi?
AS: BJP is busy in carrying out its agenda without caring about the miseries and problems of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. There is nothing as such as far as I can see.
KL: Kashmir economy is on the brink of collapse. How better do you see the economy in Jammu though both are interlinked?
AS: No doubt our economy is interlinked but at present, it is in very bad shape. It needs a big fiscal relief to uplift the economy. The common man is facing the heat of almost collapsed industry.
KL: Do you think the delimitation will help BJP retain its current position in Jammu?
AS: Doublespeak and neglect of people of Jammu by the BJP will speak very loudly in the next elections. Wait and watch. In Dogri, there is a phrase called Chuth De Per Ni Honde, which means lie has no feet.