‘My Ambition Is Under Control’

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State Congress President Professor Saif Ud Din Soz in an Interview with Tasavur Mushtaq

Kashmir Life: Why your old comrades in National Conference think that Professor Soz is in a hurry to become the chief minister?
Prof Saif Ud Din Soz:
They are absolutely wrong on that.I have no hurry. My ambition is always under control. People who know me closely know that for certain.

Kashmir Life: Then why all of a sudden there are issues in the coalition?
Prof Soz:
No, not all of a sudden. It has been happening. Everything doesn’t come in the open. Certain things came in the open recently. It is for quite some time.

Kashmir Life:If two alliances are compared. Your allaiance with PDP had a clear common minimum program but this alliance that Omar Abdullah is leading lacks it and then the impression is that he has to be batsman for all the six years?
Prof Soz:
No we couldn’t devise the Common Minimum Program because of divergent views on so many issues. I did try because I don’t have any goast writers, I write my things myself. But when I came to writing I found it very difficult. This coalition was born after compulsion that we couldn’t do otherwise. At that point of time Congress and National Conferencecould go together.  We tried, there were certain areas of cooperation and certain areas of disagreement.It is not now, that differences have all of a sudden cropped up.

Kashmir Life: What are the congress’sproblems?  Is it the governance deficit as once people were talking about in Delhi or it is just that you hate the young man?
Prof Soz:
No the point is when you get into discussion on governance, you see, there is lot of room for improvement.Therefore differences remain and there are some crucial issues and you saw recently on this question of AFSPA I felt that main stake holders were not consulted. I proved my point and now every body around is saying that consultation have to be here. I took the position that this law has to go. If Disturbed Area Act is removed automatically Armed Forces Special Power Act will not remain. It is proposition on which we need consultation.  Now every body says consultation is alright. It is therefore, when I am talking today that next time cabinet will discuss it as the regular agenda and then it will come before the unified command. Home minister and defence minister have also to agree.  Since we were in coalition, I thought Congress also needed to be consulted. It is a compulsion for National Conference to consult us. Even Home minister of India said yes to consultation. It should not be difficult to decide about that and I agree militancy has receded but we should just measure how far it is receded and then take the decision.

Kashmir Life: If we take only the debate on AFSPA. It seems that institutions and pieces of legislation seem to be more important for political parties than the people of Jammu and Kashmir?
Prof Soz:
  No, it is not that. I have a perception on what people need.  People are important and therefore we must act and react in that fashion that you carry people along. I talked to people, infact I have gotten to very deep in this romance of talking to people, understanding their difficulties.In the morning I write in my own hand 10-20 letters. They come with different problems. Except offering them jobs which is not possible for me,  I responded to their problems and try to do my duty.

Kashmir Life:  When you are the major alliance partner. You actually run the government because most of the crucial ministries are with the congress.
Prof Soz:
Crucial ministries are not with congress.This is a wrong perception. Planning, Finance, Chief Minister, Home Minister, Power, Forests which is our great wealth,industry, rural development. These are all portfolios with them. If you use prism like that you will see, the kind of prism you use. Some National Conference people feel that we have crucial ministries because theyhad not tasted coalitions early. They don’t have everything possibly. They say it to our face that you have taken crucial ministries.

Kashmir Life:  When should Kashmir expect that AFSPA will go?
Prof Soz:
As soon as possible, I can say that. Let Defence Minister and Home Minister start thinking about that and consult around. It will not be difficult to do away with this partially and in selected situations but the law enforcing machinery must feel comfortable with it. It is not a panacea. It can not remain for all times to come. It was devised as a temporary measure to fight back sponsored terrorism, that job it has done. People of Kashmir also fought a battle against militancy. They have no longer any taste or culture for that kind of situation. Infact today I feel in a kind of ease in my mind that people of Kashmir havegiven up those who have taken gun,or mentors of that philosophy.Now Ifeel this is a sea change that people of Kashmir has given up violence as an instrument for settling political dispute. That age is gone in to the past.

Kashmir Life:  There is a larger consensus on the fact Kashmir has given up violent ways of communication. Now they are so keen rather desperate to engage systems in peaceful means. When is Congress ready to give that space to the people?
Prof Soz:
  We must try. I think I can tell you that Rahul Gandhi did a wonderful exercise when he came here. He responded to the urges of people.  He understood them. He must have met hundreds of people in short span of time and came close to understanding with them. It was a very good experiment, so therefore that way of understanding people of Kashmir must continue.

Kashmir Life: But the system is that you don’t even permit people to go for prayers in Kashmir. I am talking of political leaders, your ideological opponents?
Prof Soz:
  No it is not correct. It must be suiting them otherwise no body can debar people from going to mosque.

Kashmir Life: Coming back to coalition, you say it was a compulsion and Dr Mustafa Kamal says it is a compulsion. What makes it a combo to rule the most sensitive state in India?
Prof Soz:
Mr Mustafa Kamal’s compulsion is different. He has an obsession with congress party and he will continue. Whatever Farooq Sahab will tell him, he will continue to repeatwhat he has been saying. I would say he should not suppress his ideas if somebody tells him to keep quiet. He wants to say and he is continuously saying it.His  compulsions are different, perhaps he does not like the idea of coalition with Congress.  My compulsion is that there was no other way so we came round to forming this coalition. My compulsion means it was the need of an hour and if National Conference had a better chance available they would do that. It could happen at that point of time, because you had to have a government so we had a government. Now this will continue till it is needed by people. Ultimately people are important.

Kashmir Life: People in Srinagar or Delhi?
Prof Soz:
  No, people in Jammu and Kashmir state.

Kashmir Life: So Mustafa Kamal has no effect on the health ofthe coalition?
Prof Soz:
No, congressmen are very much annoyed. In Jammu our senior vice president issued a very terse statement. They are very unhappy. But the National Conference leaders have continuously gone with it. They tell him keep quiet and he still does it. Congress people come to me and tell me that they were very unhappy. He issues statements from very inception of coalition.

Kashmir Life: But is he historically wrong?
Prof Soz:
  That is for the people of Kashmir to understand why he says it. If he wanted to be right then he should have played a role when coalition was formed. He should have raised his voice, even now he is free to raise his voice.

Kashmir Life:  Is Congress party using its influence in government both in state and centre to create union of students for its political purposes. Recently there were massive protests in Kashmir University after the delegation of University of Kashmir was flown to Delhi on Rahul Gandhi’s request?
Prof Soz:
No, I had no idea. I don’t know. See Rahul ji will never want that way to happen. His idea is that there must be change in mind and people should open up in diverse directions. Sometimes you get stuck up with the situation. It was spontaneous, I have no role in university visit. It was good that no local politician was there. Rahul is a very open minded person. I feel convinced on that. It is for students of Kashmir University and colleges to decide how they want to get involved into a kind of dialogue with Rahul Gandhi. It will be to there advantage. Kashmiris have been suffering, they have suffered through armed militancy and they have so many grievances, these must be known to people who are imaginativeand I find Rahul Gandhi is a very imaginative person. Therefore I think if he continues to have this interaction with youngsters in Kashmir, it will beto the total advantage of Kashmir.It will not be causing any kind of discomfort.

Kashmir Life:  Coming back to the coalition politics in Kashmir. Is this coalition going to continue six years in the same form as it is?
Prof Soz:
I never use term rotation or three years versus six years. It is what cadres talk in good numbers butit is for the congress high command to decide. I am not worried about that. It is not proper for me to see the term must end. I am not in business of three or six years. As long as I am president my job is to promote congress party and that I am doing.I keep going to people, listen to them and understand their problems.

Kashmir Life: Why are there many voices within the congress party on issues?
Prof Soz:
  There are not many. A couple of people have been disgruntledand they have been occasionally doing that. Otherwise you will find entire party is with me. Come with me I will show you.

Kashmir Life: That includes Ghulam Nabi Azad and Taj Mohuiddin as well?
Prof Soz:
No, Ghulam Nabi Azad is a minister in union. Taj Mohuiddin just tried to say that he is very important. If he considers himself to be above the party, what can i say.

Kashmir Life:  Is there a possibility of pruning the people who are holding portfolios in this coalition in coming few weeks?
Prof Soz:
No, who I am to say. High command knows. They will assess the functioning and at some proper time, may be somebody. I don’t know what the congress high command will do.I don’t have a particular complaint.

Kashmir Life:You were personally at one point of time instrumental in doing certain things. Where is the communication with the people who are holding ideologically different views on Kashmir?
Prof Soz:
I am of definite view that separatist must talk to Delhi. People have different views and you cannot brush them aside. We must talk to them I am still trying my best that dialogue with them must come about, I have and I will continue to do that in my humble capacity. I am on that job. Ultimately, we must organise a breakthrough in the talks with them. They must come forward whatever they feel in the interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir and it will be achieved through dialogue, there is no other way.

Kashmir Life:Where does congress place a demand of autonomy and a demand of self rule?
Prof Soz:
No, I am on a bigger platform now. Autonomyor self rule are these tailor made solutions that may not work actually. What will work is very effective unfettered dialogue. Dialogue will yield the result. I stress a need for a dialogue.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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