“Our political culture is more rhetoric rather than real”

Former spokesperson of Peoples Conference Junaid Azim Mattoo, tells Syed Asma that political parties in Kashmir still revolve around individuals and not ideologies.

Junaid Azim Mattoo
Junaid Azim Mattoo

Kashmir Life: What made you to resign from People’s Conference?

Junaid Azim Mattoo: I think it was differences in working styles in the party. Kashmiris need a different style of working which is not based on dictatorship rather on consensus and humble working style. We need to heal as a nation, so, we need to have a kind of a political working style which is down to earth, grounded and will take people on board. So, I think there was difference in working style and I thought I could not fit in that working style anymore.


KL: It took you three years to know that you do not fit in their working style?

JAM: No, I still wish People’s Conference the best. It didn’t take me three years to realize that.  Being a part of a political party has its advantages and disadvantages. So, if you go into any political party and you won’t have disadvantages, you would be wrong. I am not disillusioned but at this juncture I realized I would not be able to contribute in that working style and set-up.

As I left a lot of functionaries decided to leave along. Probably, we were disillusioned by the working style.


KL: So, it is the working style and dictatorship within the People’s Conference that made you to leave the party?

JAM: There are a lot of youngsters who are coming into politics or do want to join politics. The youngsters come with a lot of non-conventional ideas like conducting signature campaigns and filing petitions. But there is no space for creativity and innovative ideas.


KL: Is People’s Conference having the same problem because when it was launched it talked about change and youths involvement?

JAM: I won’t comment on this but every party is a political party. Let’s not talk about the political party. Let’s talk about general political culture existing in Kashmir. Be it separatist politics or mainstream politics, our politics has not evolved yet. Our parties still revolve around an individual and not around ideologies and consensus. Consensus is very important as in political parties you get 10 different people with 10 different ideologies; you tend to accommodate each one of them. I feel there is no place for dynamism in political culture in Kashmir. So, as a whole our political culture needs to be evolved and made more grounded. I believe our political culture is more rhetoric rather than real.

I believe in 1930’s when Muslim Conference was launched it was a political movement which later got hijacked or deviated. It is a separate debate but since then no such political movement was launched. Since then people have not seen any such movement and it is high time to start a new one.


KL: You have been in politics for some time now. Is politics really all about rhetoric in Kashmir?

JAM: There are many reasons. One of the reasons is political disempowerment. Take for example Srinagar, which is considered to be the face of the state. So, normally what happens, Srinagar leads and the rest of the Valley follows the trend. The political trend set by the city is of boycott and disempowerment. I am not saying that a Kashmiri does not have a right to boycott but the basic issue is wherever there is boycott; there is a space for dictatorial politics in the state. If people in Srinagar will start voting for ideologies and not for individual, it would be a different scenario.

My second point is that in Kashmir politics is all about rhetoric. The third reason is lack of political evolution. Kashmir hasn’t seen a political evolution of this era, post-1980. And if it happens I think the dictatorship and culture of dynasties in politics would end. If we analyse our root of politics are still in dynastic politics. I believe if Kashmir sees a front that comes from the ground, things will surely change.


KL: Are you planning to launch your own party?

JAM: It is too early to say that but we are planning something and I do not know what shape it will take. Our endeavour would be to introduce young, vibrant politicians who would be interested to do good to the society.


KL: Why did you choose People’s Conference instead of National Conference if your grandfather was a part of Muslim Conference and colleague of Sheikh Abdullah?

JAM: My grandfather was one of the founders of Muslim Conference. He was a senior of Sheikh Abdullah and kind of promoted Sheikh Abdullah who later hijacked the organisation and changed it to National Conference. My grandfather parted his ways from the party before 1976.

And I wanted to join politics because I think it is the way to change things and Sajad Lone approached me and asked to join them. I thought this is the way to lead a new beginning in politics in Kashmir.


KL: What exactly did you see in People’s Conference which you thought will change things?

JAM: I joined People’s Conference because I did not want to be a part of dynastic politics. Sajad’s party seemed to be fresh and vibrant party during that time. But I believe a party can only bring change in Kashmir if it has a different political culture within. If it has democracy within its set-up then only it can work for the betterment of the people.


KL: But if we analyse Sajad, he too inherited the party and he too inherited a legacy of leadership. So, how do you justify this?

JAM: It was not the same case. Yes, his father was a leader but Sajad did not inherit a party. So, it wasn’t dynastic politics.


KL: There was a rumour that Omar had promised he would make you the MD of SRTC but it didn’t materialize. Is this the reason you didn’t join NC?

JAM: No it’s not true. Omar and I were good friends. I did not part ways with him because he did not settle me anywhere but we had ideological clash. Yes, we were working on a few plans but they didn’t get materialize. But it in no way changed my ideology.


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