Sheikh Muhammed Hussain Lutfi, Chairman Imam Khumaini Trust, Kargil, tells Syed Asma that alliance with Congress is in the interest of Kargil.
Kashmir Life: People of Zanskar had decided to boycott the election but in the end changed their mind. What do you think prompted them to vote? And is it true that Congress used Masjids for campaigning?
Sheikh Muhammed Hussain Lutfi: Actually National Conference and its alliance failed to deliver in Kargil. On the other hand Congress and its alliance, despite being in the opposition had comparatively better worksheet. See, Sonia Gandhi visited twice, Rahul Gandhi once and Ghulam Nabi Azad many times besides; he approved funds worth crores in our favour. So, we thought Congress is a better option and we should go for it. Congress is the most powerful party presently. It is in power both in centre and state.
KL: A few years back, your party, Imam Khumaini Trust, had issued a ‘fatwa’ against Congress, calling it ‘hizb-i-tagoot’ (The believers of evil) so, what exactly changed in this ‘hizb-i-tagoot’ that you formed alliance with them?
SMHL: We did not issue ‘fatwa’ against any party. In last 40 years, both Congress and NC failed to deliver in this region. They were always concerned about Leh. Kargil never figured on their developmental map. I am talking in terms of issuing funds, constructing air base etc. In the past we supported NC but they let us down. We simply decided not to vote for any of them. But nobody issued any fatwa. Given its say in New Dehli, Congress is a better option for us right now.
KL: But the literature of the ‘fatwa’ is still available.
SMHL: No, we never issued a ‘fatwa’. We simply boycotted both Congress and NC in last elections. Their focus was always Leh. Nobody cared about Kargil. You know, Leh has an air base where at least 4-5 flights land every day. It is better developed then Kargil in every way.
KL: So what changed after 40 years that you formed an alliance with Congress? Is it the hope of constructing Zoji La tunnel and frequent visit of Congress men and high command in the region?
SMHL: No, it is not that but in past five years we have noticed that Congress has started taking interest in Kargil, they have granted funds worth crores of rupees in our favour and have worked for our betterment. Manmohan Singh recently inaugurated a 40 MW power project in the region besides; centre has issued funds for constructing of a highway. And many other developmental projects are in process for past five years. We have only supported them because presently if any party can work for our betterment, it is Indian National Congress.
KL: Why do you think Leh is given importance over Kargil?
SMHL: Their [Leh’s] representation was stronger in centre if we compare it with Kargil. I think our voice never reached there. I think it was the only reason.
You can see that after flash floods, Leh was given crores of rupees but we in Kargil were told to follow Islam strictly and pray regularly, otherwise our property loss was nearly double than that of Leh. We were not paid any compensation. If at all something was paid, it was negligible compared to Leh.
KL: So, do you think it would change now because you have voted for Congress?
SMHL: Absolutely. Congress will help us procure more funds for Kargil so that this region develops. These are our expectations from our alliance and the central government.
KL: It has been 15 years now that Ladakh Hill Development Council, Kargil (LAHDC-K) has been working in the region. What did its inception change in Kargil?
SMHL: Hill development Council played an important part in the region. Earlier most of the funds remained unutilized in Kargil. But now every single penny is utilized for the betterment of people. Besides, the council formed bi-party system in the region. A party with majority comes in power with the other party remains in opposition. Both play their part significantly. The party in power governs the region and the opposition makes them accountable.
KL: So, you are saying opposition plays a good role and helps the government to work in a better way. But as far as reports are concerned, for last 15 years no opposition has attended any meeting of the council. How true is that?
SMHL: No, it is not true. We most of the times attended the meetings but yes missed few of them.
KL: For past five years, you were in the opposition, why didn’t you attend the meetings?
SMHL: See for past five years, NC had earned strong support and had little chances of its downfall, so, there wasn’t much role of an opposition. That is why they did not work for our betterment as they knew they will continue for five years in anyway.
KL: Do you believe opposition’s role is to make a government accountable or is its role to make it a failure and be a reason for its downfall?
SHML: Opposition’s duty is to make the government accountable but if a party in power enjoys strong majority and is confident that it will continue for five years in anyway, its urge for working for the development of the place is lesser.
KL: So, you would govern the region with the same belief as you have also earned a strong majority?
SHML: No, never! We will not rely upon the opposition’s criticism but our main aim is to develop the region and work for its betterment. Even if we were not in power we would have worked with same enthusiasm and dedication. We are here to work for the people of Kargil in anyway.
KL: So, going by what you said, the ratio of 11:8 seats is repeated in this year as well, NC and alliance should not also attend the meetings because your alliance has little chances of collapsing in the mid-term? If they do not attend the meetings you cannot blame them, can you?
SHML: That is absolutely their domain, I can’t answer that.
KL: Of late you had said that you have been looted in last five years. Please explain?
SHML: NC in last five years did nothing but played rival politics. They made our supporters suffer, transferred them to far flung areas. Precisely, they have made everybody suffer who did not vote for them.
KL: Communal rivalry between Buddhist majority and Muslim minority is deep rooted. Recently, Buddhists socially boycotted Muslim in Zanaskar. How are you going to tackle the issue?
SMHL: Animosity between Muslims and Buddhists helps nobody. We all should live in harmony with each other. Thankfully people in Zanskar voted for Congress, our alliance, and we will try our best to work for their betterment. I think religion should not be involved in politics.