Politics

'Kashmiris' Dreams Are Gone, They Are Slaves': The Farooq Abdullah Interview

The full transcript of the interview in which formerly incarcerated MP Farooq Abdullah discusses the many points of betrayal that he and Kashmiris have suffered in the hands of the BJP-led Central government.

In an interview to Karan Thapar on September 23, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Lok Sabha MP said that at the moment the Kashmiri people do not feel and want to be Indian, and would rather be ruled by China, so deep was their disillusion with the Centre.

The interview records one of the most prominent ‘pro-India’ faces in Jammu and Kashmir noting a distinct sense of betrayal. It has made waves and has been viewed nearly 2 lakh times on YouTube alone. Below is the transcript of the chat.

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Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to this special interview for The Wire supported by Glenlivet books. Thirteen months after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, and the demotion of Kashmir to Union Territory status, what is the mood of the people in the Valley? Equally importantly, what does the future hold for the National Conference and the Abdullah family? Those are two key issues I shall explore today with the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and the president of the National Conference – now also a member of the Lok Sabha – Farooq Abdullah.

KT: Dr. Abdullah, let’s start with Kashmir, after that, I’ll come to the National Conference and yourself. Thirteen months after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, and the demotion of the state to Union territory status, how would you describe the mood of the Kashmiri people in the valley?

Farooq Abdullah: Well, to be honest, I wonder whether they’ll find someone who’ll call himself an Indian today. What they did, it was already difficult, but what they did on 5th of August last year, was the last stone – nail in the coffin of India. And that’s what they did. You go and talk to anybody, they don’t want to know. They’re not Pakistanis, let me be very clear about it.

KT: But they don’t feel Indian.

FA: But they don’t feel Indian. And us, who have to speak, I wonder whether we will survive. 

KT: When you say they don’t feel Indian, does that also mean they don’t want to be Indian?

FA: Because they can no longer trust. The unity of the Muslim-majority state with the rest of the nation was on trust. Here was Pakistan, a Muslim country, Islamic country, easy for us to go that side; religion that side, the roads that side, the rivers go that side. We went against the current.

KT: Because you had just –

FA: And joined the Gandhi’s India, not Modi’s India. Gandhi’s India.

KT: Because you had trust.

FA: We had trust.

KT: And that trust –

FA: The trust was that everyone in this nation will be equal. Your religion is yours, and no one can play with your sentiments, with your integrity, nobody will destroy you, you are part of this nation, and you will remain as the crown of this nation. 

KT: So that trust is gone, you’re saying that emotional bond is gone?

FA: Completely gone. They wiped that out.

KT: So Kashmiris look upon people south of the Banihal line as, not just different, as alien?

FA: Well, there is no doubt about it Karan. There’s no doubt about it, it’s so. Today, when China is advancing on the other side, you know, many – if you talk to them – they would rather have Chinese coming in. Whatever one may say. They know what Chinese have done to the Muslims in their region.

KT: You’re serious about this? The very –

FA: I’m not serious about it, I am honest about it. I am honest in telling you what people do not want to listen. 

KT: They would rather have Chinese than Indians?

FA: Yes! They would rather not go to Pakistan. Because everything is lost. The promise he made – that 370 is blocking the development of the state, integrity of the state; tell me, when Ghulam Nabi Azad compared two states – Gujarat and Kashmir – he showed that Jammu and Kashmir was far higher in every respect to Gujarat. Today you look, we have gone to the bottom of every state in India. In one year.

KT: Dr. Abdullah, you said something that will shake people. The very Kashmiris who – in ’47-’48 – stood up to the Pakistani Lashkar, the Pakistani army; the very Kashmiris who ensured that Operation

FA: Not only that. What about in ’65?

KT: Operation Gibraltar – they defeated it.

FA: Yes!

KT: Yet those people, today, would rather have the Chinese?

FA: Yes, because they are sick of what they are having to put up with. Every street has a soldier with an AK-47, a policeman; every street, every village. Where is that freedom? That we knew, that we expected. Where is it?

KT: They are more than disillusioned, they are completely fed-up?

FA: They don’t know what’s happened overnight. Their dreams are gone, their children do not know what is their future. Do you know that you enjoy 4G here, our children have to put up with 2G and you don’t know how slow it is, and they have to stand up to the rest of the Indian children. How? Where is the child from the village going to afford a laptop, where is he going to afford the phone connection? Where from?  

Security personnel leave after an encounter with militants, at Batamaloo in Srinagar, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. Three militants and a woman were killed in the gun battle.

KT: Let me ask you this, Dr. Abdullah – is hate an emotion Kashmiris are beginning to feel for the rest of India? 

FA: Well, it is emerging that way. They have brought us to that level. You won’t believe – if I speak of India anywhere, they don’t want to listen.

KT: And yet, the BJP insisted that there is acceptance in Kashmir for what happened in 2019, in August and they say proof of this is that there are hardly any protests.

FA: How can you have protests when every street is full of your soldiers standing there? Can you have protests? Would you be able to do protests here in Delhi if every street was levelled with armed gunmen? Would you be able to come out of your house? What are they talking about? How much are they going to fool the people of India by saying everything is hunky dory? Now, today if you see the newspaper, the militancy has gone down 50%. Bullshit. Only yesterday we are having an encounter in the centre of Kashmir, and – some days ago – near the secretariat itself, in Srinagar; and hardly five kilometres from Srinagar, in Magam – twice. What are they trying to tell you?

KT: So, you’re saying to me, it’s not acceptance of August 2019, people are intimidated – they cannot protest but they want to protest.

FA: The minute you remove those soldiers, lakhs will be on the streets. I guarantee that today. 

KT: Then let me ask you one more question. How do the people of the valley view the Central government and, in particular, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah?

FA: How they view them is – for that, you have to go yourself. But what they have done, there’s no love for them.

KT: No love for them? Is there hatred for them?

FA: Hate is a word which is, you know, which would be – I would say they are ‘disillusioned’. Completely disillusioned. You see, this is the difference between Vajpayee and him. He was also RSS but do you remember how he won the hearts of the people? 

KT: With insaniyat.

FA: Insaniyat, jamhooriyat, and Kashmiriyat. Changed the face completely that, my god, there is a man who talks about us, who talks that we have to settle everything – not only with you people but with neighbours also, and I will solve these problems. Unfortunately, he lost in the election. 

KT: Dr. Abdullah, you’ve emphatically, passionately brought home to the audience the mood and feelings of the Kashmiri people. As you said, they don’t feel Indian, they don’t feel they’re a part of India, they don’t want to be. Let me now move one step forward. Roughly 72 hours before August the 5th, 2019, you met the Prime Minister, you wanted assurances about the future of 370 and 35A. Your son has suggested that you’d left that meeting thinking that you’d got those assurances. What exactly did the Prime Minister say to you?

Farooq Abdullah with Narendra Modi, whom he met shortly before the Centre’s August 5 decision. Photo: PTI

FA: You see, one of the most important factors was, that when I told him that so many troops have been moved in and they continue to be moved in – what is the reason? Are you having a war with any of these two countries – China or Pakistan – so we can be ready for it? He was completely silent on that; he said things are alright, “Yeh zara, hum logon ko khabre ayi hain ke ho sakta ke kuch waqt wahan se, kahin se hamla ho, kuch ho.” But nothing tangible about why they were going; and no mention that this was going to be removed.

KT: No mention of 370?

FA: No! No! No!

KT: 35A?

FA: None! None! We left the meeting really very pleased, extremely pleased. 

KT: So, did he mislead you, did he deceive you?

FA: Well, he’s deceiving the nation today so deceiving Farooq Abdullah doesn’t make a damn difference. 

KT: But he deliberat-

FA: Everything that is being done today, whether it’s farms policy or other policies, what are they?

KT: But he deliberately left you with a false impression?

FA: We had – we had, definitely, an impression that was very different to what he really thought, what he did; so, obviously. It was the wrong impression we took with us. 

KT: Let’s now come to the National Conference. 

FA: Yes.

KT: After August 5th, 2019, is there place, is there space for mainstream parties like yours? Or, have circumstances and events discredited you in the eyes of the Kashmiri people?

FA: Well, thank god, they did try to discredit us – there’s no doubt about it. And those who were opposing us all the time – because we stood with India – had the upper hand; that these servants of India have got it – what they should deserve – because they left the people’s wishes. And we got it, this was the mood at that time when we were locked up. Many of them felt, “Well good! They deserve it.”

KT: That’s right, they said, “Serves Abdullah right.”

FA: Not only Abdullah, everyone who was in, they said that this was very good.

KT: Kashmiris said on TV, “Ab bolo ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.” 

FA: Haan, haan, magar Allah ka shukar hai ke we stood solidly on our position and today, by the grace of God, we are not alone. The Gupkar declaration brought in all the parties together, even People’s Party, you know the –

Also read: J&K: What the Six Party Joint Declaration for Restoration of Special Status Means

KT: You’re saying a very important thing, I just want to clarify. You’re saying, in August 2019 – when the two articles were abrogated and Kashmir was demoted to Union territory status – at that point of time, parties like yours, parties like Mehbooba Mufti’s party, stood discredited; Kashmiris felt you were servants of India but you’re suggesting that, a year later, that situation may have changed.

FA: Yes, because now people realise we are not slaves, we are not servants. What we tried to do was to try and convince this government, and previous governments, that start trusting. Start trusting the Muslims of Kashmir that you do not trust. 

KT: So, you’re saying that the 8-9 months of the year that you spent under detention, under PSA, actually revived your stature. 

FA: It has revived our image in the eyes of people, that we are not slaves and servants of the Government of India. That we stand by our principles and we will continue to stand by our principles and live by our principles. 

KT: Because I’ll tell you something, I’m old enough to remember – in the ’80s – how popular you were as a young chief minister. I remember images of you on a mo-bike in Gulmarg with Shabana Azmi on the pillion seat; and, actually, Kashmiris loved it. You were youthful, you were young, you were – in the old, best sense of the word – gay.

FA: Not only that, I used to go on the motorbike in the centre of the city and go to the shops and find out that this is the government rate of selling your vegetables, your meat and other things – what are you doing? And I used to ask people, “Is he selling you at this rate or is he selling you at other rates?” I was in direct contact with the people.

KT: Then it must have really hurt you and upset you that when you were arrested in 2019, there were people – your own people – turning around and saying, “Serves Farooq Abdullah right.” There were your own people saying,  “Ab, Farooq, bolo Bharat Mata ki Jai,” did that hurt you? It was a complete U-turn.

FA: It hurt me tremendously that the nation I defended everywhere – whether in Geneva, whether in Austria, whether in United Nations – that they have treated us like this. As if we are the ones who are traitors to this land.

KT: India let you down?

FA: They made us to look like traitors in the eyes of Indians, 1.3 billion people, they make us look like traitors. We are not the traitors, it is they who are the traitors! Who destroyed the very love for this land. They are the ones who have driven us in the corner. 

KT: You were caught in a terrible position. The Modi government considered you traitors, they wanted to arrest you, they shoved you under PSA. The Kashmiri people, on the other hand, turned around and said, “These were servants of India, they didn’t stand by us.” You were left between both. You fell between two stools.

FA: We were left hanging. Not knowing whether you’re here or your here. It was a terrible moment, and, you know, what gave me the courage was my holy book – The Quran. God’s words that they used to read, they gave me the courage to stand on and fight. 

KT: Religion was comfort at this, probably lowest, moment in your life?

FA: Exactly, that gave me the…I, I said, doesn’t make a damn difference. God has given me life and I have to fight.

KT: But now, is there bitterness in you? 

FA: I have never had bitterness. That is the great thing about the Quran, it teaches you don’t be bitter.

KT: But have you forgiven Mr. Modi and Amit Shah?

FA: It’s not the question of forgiveness. Forgiveness is in the hands of that, lord almighty. But I feel sad, what has he done? What has he made that India can be proud of? What is it?

KT: Let’s look to the future –

FA: Look at the, look at the present position. Chinese, marching in. Prime Minister saying not a single piece of land has gone; and Defence Minister giving a statement in the house of parliament that so much of land is taken by them and they have fortified themselves – they’ve got tanks, they’ve got bombers, they’ve got missiles. Going to Russia to ask them to help, going to Trump to ask them to help – are we a nation that stands on its feet?

An army convoy carrying military material on its way to Ladakh, September 19, 2020. Photo: PTI

KT: Dr. Abdullah, let’s come back to Kashmir. Let’s talk about the future. I know, as you said, that the months you spent under detention, under the Public Security Act have – in a sense – revived your image and yours standing. You were hated in August 2005 – no longer so. But nonetheless, if the National Conference is going to come back to power, you have to convince the people of Kashmir that you’re giving them, offering them, and standing for things that matter to them. To what extent does the Gupkar declaration of August last year – reiterated on 22nd of August this year – define what the National Conference stands for?

FA: See, let me tell you, it is not the power we are fighting for – let’s make that very clear. It is the honour, dignity, the respect that the people have lost on the 5th of August last year – we are fighting for that.

KT: In other words, you’re fighting for the respect of the Kashmiri people.

FA: Exactly!

KT: For their dignity.

FA: We want their honour back! And for them to start trusting Muslims rather than denigrating them and planning to change the demography of the state. 

KT: You made a very important point. The dignity of Kashmiris who are not just citizens, but also Muslims. Everytime Kashmiris read about what’s happening south of the Banihal line – the Citizenship Amendment Act, lynchings because they’ve been seen with cows, discrimination; the fact that the Delhi police is targeting Muslims, not those who actually said hateful things about Muslims. What impact –

FA: Who said, “Goli maaro” – you remember?

KT: I do indeed, “Goli maaro saalon ko.”

FA: Exactly.

Anurag Thakur, who caused a controversy in Delhi by leading BJP supporters at an election in the chanting of the slogan, ‘Desh ke ghadaaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’. Photo: Facebook/official.anuragthakur

KT: What impact does this have on the Kashmiri people and does it turn them even more bitter?

FA: It turns them very bitter. They start thinking was Jinnah right, or was Sheikh Abdullah right? That we cannot live together, we have to have a separate land, that’s what Jinnah said. When Jinnah was even offered, by Gandhi, the prime ministership, he said no, you give me the prime ministership but your majority can throw me out anytime. Today they started thinking on that point also – was he right, or was Abdullah right to join this nation which had promised that everyone is equal? 

KT: So, sentiment for Kashmiri independence has grown sizeably?

FA: Well, I think there is no doubt about it. It has grown and if it continues to have this effect in the rest of India – where lynching and all these other things happen, and Muslims are not trusted – you can keep the entire Indian Army there and do what you like but one day this volcano will blow. 

KT: How close has India come to losing Kashmir?

FA: Well, they have lost people. 

KT: Sentimentally?

FA: They still hold the land, with force, but they have lost people.

KT: Irrevocably, or can they win them back?

FA: No, no it’s a question of will they take those steps that’ll give the honour back to these people?

KT: Let’s talk about that. I want to quote a sentence from this statement you, and all other mainstream parties in Kashmir issued on August the 22nd – just about a month ago. You said, and I’m quoting, “We want to assure the people, that all our political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting to the status of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on 4th August, 2019.” I presume that means reinstating 370 and 35A and restoring full statehood.

FA: Correct, correct. Normally, union territories become states. Here, the state has become Union Territory. Which was the ‘Crown of India’, they used to shout that this is the ‘Crown of India’. 

KT: And it’s only when this is done that the dignity of the Kashmiris will be restored – this is critical?

FA: This is absolutely critical. If they don’t understand that, then I am very sorry.

KT: But the mood of the country – not just the government – the mood of the country, south of Banihal, is that abrogating 370 was right. And no one south of the Banihal is upset about your losing your statehood. So, the rest of your fellow citizens don’t believe this is important.

FA: You see, rest of the country has been so well grilled through media and other things that Kashmir was ruined by three families, there was nothing on the ground, now we will see it grow like hell. And they believed it because they never went there and saw how much progress the place has made. You think a man in Bihar, or in any other state of India, who lives in the village, know what Kashmir is? 

KT: But isn’t there something else you’re saying – the divide, the gap between the people of Kashmir and the rest of the country has grown.

FA: It has grown, and they made it possible. Rather than uniting people-

KT: It’s separating people. 

FA: They are taking them further away. 

KT: In which case, tell me this, how do you propo –

FA: You know, Muslims are called Pakistanis, Muslims are called traitors anywhere in the country. Labelled as them. When jobs come, they are not given jobs, they are put on the side. 

KT: They are treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

FA: Exactly! Exactly! Which was not what India was!

KT: And this must be hateful to Kashmiris.

FA: It is! It is hateful to every single man, not only Kashmiris, many of the Indians who can see the tragedy that is occurring – they don’t accept it.

KT: Then let’s come back to this. How will you ensure that 370 and 35A are reinstated? How will you ensure that statehood is restored? 

FA: Do you know, India fought two hundred years British rule, didn’t they? And after two hundred years, we saw Nehru raise the tricolour; we will continue to fight for our rights. Not by guns, not by bombs but by Gandhian way of fighting. We may die fighting – lots of people died in seeing that day when 15th August came and India became free.

Women protesting against the decision to read down Article 370. Photo: Mudasir Ali

KT: But you won’t give up.

FA: We are never going to give up to the last breath! I have said, our fight will continue till you return our dignity. 

KT: At the moment, you have a petition in front of the Supreme Court, yet the court shows no interest in hearing it – they’ve deliberately pushed it back further and further, and the court says, this delay doesn’t matter because the court can rewind the clock if it wants. But the problem is, the longer the delay, the more likely it is this will become a fait accompli and, in that event, rewinding the clock becomes impossible. Isn’t the court letting you down?

FA: Churchill said, “Sun will never set on Britain,” remember? British empire. The sun did set. We have not lost faith. We will never lose faith that one day this will change!

KT: But is the Supreme Court letting you down by its delay?

FA: Attacking the court will not make our case easier, but we hope after seeing this interview they’ll realise what our sentiments are, and realise what people feel and their duty to the nation is to see that nation stays together, national becomes stronger. 

KT: So, in a sense, you’re appealing to the judges of the Supreme Court, “Please hear this.”

FA: Yes! Why not? Earlier two petitions that were done before clearly said that 370 is a permanent thing. Supreme Court judgments are there.

KT: You’re simply saying stand by what you said.

FA: Yes! Exactly. What is the change?

KT: Tell me something else, why did you not raise this issue in parliament?

FA: (scoffs) They don’t give you the time. 

KT: What do you mean?

FA: They are afraid of Farooq Abdullah speaking in the parliament!

KT: You asked for time and –

FA: Yes! the very first day when I came in. We went and met the speaker, put in a discussion. To this damn moment, they have not given us time to discuss Kashmir. Not only me – Congress was with me, Trinamool Congress was with me, DMK was with me, communists were with me, all other parties with me that discussion should be held on Kashmir.

KT: What did the spea–

FA: Why are they afraid to discuss! 

KT: What did the speaker say? What did Mr. Birla say?

FA: Mr. Birla said yes. But where is it?

KT: The speaker said yes but couldn’t allocate time?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets BJP MP from Kota Om Birla after he was elected as the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha on Wednesday, June 19. Photo: LSTV Grab/PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets BJP MP from Kota Om Birla after he was elected as the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha on Wednesday, June 19. Photo: LSTV Grab/PTI

FA: Yes, exactly, to this day. You wouldn’t believe, when I used to get up and say, “Please let me speak.” I got, yesterday, one minute and before that also, one minute to put in my point. And I said, there is, today, encounter taking place in the centre of the Kashmir and this will never end unless you go back to a position that we had on the 4th of August. 

KT: But the government didn’t want to hear.

FA: (shrugs)

KT: But you’re saying something even more important – the speaker agreed to I’ve you time for discussion but it never happened. Does that suggest that the government had a word with the speaker and said, “Don’t you dare”?

FA: That, I don’t know what government and speaker did. That will be, you know, not for me to say.

KT: But the speaker didn’t –

FA: But we did not get the time. Not only we but the other parties. 

KT: Even though the speaker said he would give you time.

FA: Yes.

KT: He didn’t do it.

FA: Yes.

KT: He went back on his word. 

FA: I don’t know whether he went back on his word or what happened, but we haven’t got time and where is the time now? 

KT: One more thing –

FA: Today, it’ll end at five. Three to five – two hours – and two hours is zero hour. 

KT: One more thing, traditionally in India, when people want to protest against injustice or wrong action against the government, we organise mass peaceful protests. Peaceful, but large. You couldn’t do it in 2019 because you were arrested, you were detained for 8-9 months; after that, you couldn’t do it because COVID stopped you. But now when you go back – and I gather you’re going back tomorrow, Thursday, will you peacefully – I underline peacefully – bring out Kashmiris so that India can see they have not accepted what has happened, they want their dignity back?

FA: Tell me, with 144 in place –

KT: It can’t be done.

FA: COVID on top of it, do you think the government is going to allow you? Batons will come out, they will fire that damn pellet gun. How many people have lost their eyes? What is this? Is this democratic India? It’s not democratic India, it is not Gandhi’s India!

KT: Let’s come back to the Gupkar declaration. Not only, as you’ve explained, does it define your party’s position and what you believe is necessary to restore the dignity of the Kashmiri people, but it is also a platform the brings together all Kashmiri mainstream parties. My question is this – there was historic, generational divisions and differences between the Abdullahs and the Muftis; are they now resolved, are they forgotten, are they part of the past?

FA: We have to move forward. Divided we cannot win our battle. Unitedly we have to fight – all of us. It is the unity that will give us strength, division never give us our strength.

KT: For the sake of Kashmir, the two families are putting their differences aside? 

FA: Every single party that is in this declaration is putting their personal differences aside for the greater cause of the dignity of the people. That is what we are doing. 

KT: So, politically speaking, is Mehbooba Mufti now close to you at all?

FA: Yes, very close, I speak to her quite often. I’m surprised that everybody is free, why is she not free? What has she done? Tell me. Is she a criminal? Is she a Pakistani, Chinese, or Russian, or American agent? Locked up. This is not India. This is not Indian democracy. She has every right – like you have, or I have, or anybody else has – to be a free citizen. And I hope they wake up. 

KT: You’ve been in touch with her, you speak to her frequently, has this affected her personally?

FA: You see, that you cannot see on the phone. Not possible. 

KT: But it must have.

FA: Obviously, human beings are human beings. Would it not affect you if you were locked up? And when you’re not, in any way, involved in anything anti-national. Would it not affect you, if you’re put in Tihar? Obviously, it would. 

KT: We’re coming to the end of this interview Dr. Abdullah, let me ask you a couple of questions about the future. In a sense, you’ve half talked about the first question I want to ask you – do you share the fear that the new domicile law is deliberately designed to change the demographic character of Kashmir?

FA: It’s not only I saying it, it’s every single person in Kashmir who thinks the same way. Tell me, what was the need, when we passed in the assembly that whole of India is going to go through – in 2026 they’re going to have constituency revivals and things after the census is done, delimitation is going to be done.

KT: Why bring it forward? 

FA: Why bring it forward? What was the necessity? Couldn’t I have done it then? I could have done it then, they couldn’t have stopped me because I was clear, I was honest about it. 

KT: So Kashmiris believe Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah want to flood the valley with Hindus and change Kashmir from a Muslim-majority province to, perhaps, a Hindu-majority one.

FA: Jammu and Kashmir, today not only Jammu and Kashmir, even Ladakhis. See there, demonstration. Yesterday only, what they have put through. 

KT: So, this is another element that infuriates Kashmiris.

FA: Exactly! You know what happened? I want to tell you one thing, just a small thing. Advani ji comes from Sindh, so he started Sindhu darshan because [the Indus] goes through Leh. And he said to people there, in speaking, that once when he came here and sat in the BSF mess and he saw this river and he said, “What is this river?” They said this is Sindh river. He said, “This is my mother, this is what has given us life,” so, he started Sindhu darshan. He gave twenty crores, when I was chief minister, for certain projects – like an open-air theatre, library for Sindhu culture, all these things – you know what the Chairman of Hill Development Council at that time told me? “When they were making a ghat there, they said they want to make us Hindus.” I said, “What are you talking? This is for the development of the area, this is a ghat because the Hindus come, they have to pray on this river, there’s nothing much about it.” In Delhi, we had a meeting – how this 20 crores have to be spent, and that man is still alive – used to be MP also, he’s leader now of the opposition in that state. You know what he said? I said to Advani ji, “Did he tell you what he told me? That all this what you’re doing, you’re trying to convert Buddhists in Hindus.” Advani ji laughed aloud. Today, that is what’s happening to them also.

KT: You’re making a very important point. You’re saying whether we talk about Ladakh, or Jammu, or the valley, people cherish, value, and want to protect and preserve their identity.

FA: Exactly!

KT: Don’t threaten it with domicile laws that suggest that you’re trying to convert them or flood the place with Hindus. This could break the bond with Kashmiris emotionally and, in every other way, deeply.

FA: Exactly. Don’t do things which are going to hurt you further and hurt the nation. Today, you are sitting on the chair, you may not sit tomorrow. Don’t do something which is going to eternally break that bond. 

KT: Let me ask you one more question. Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state – now, of course, Muslim-majority union territory – and yet, I notice, that all the top positions in Kashmir today are occupied by non-Muslims. The lieutenant governor is non-Muslim, the chief secretary is non-Muslim, the DGP is non-Muslim, both divisional commissioners are non-Muslim, the chief justice is non-Muslim. As a former chief minister, how do you view this? 

J&K LG Manoj Sinha pays a surprise visit to Civil Secretariat in Srinagar. Photo: Twitter/@DDSrinagar

FA: How do you think I should view it? You know, from my father’s time we used to see to it that if the DC is a Hindu – deputy commissioner is a Hindu – the SSP of that district should be a Muslim. If Hindu is DC, SSP is Muslim so that people had grievances that they felt this fellow will not listen, other fellow will listen. Today, how many DCs are there of the same religion and the SPs are of the same religion? As you said, you quoted all these people. You mean to tell me there are no Muslims who can fill these places? What are they trying to do? Do you think Muslims are not intelligent? That they can’t carry the job? What are they trying to do? This is where they start thinking – how much you might try to tell them “No, no, no the country’s like this, like this,” they don’t want to listen. They say here is the example, before you, as you put it. What does Farooq Abdullah tell them? They may be very good people.

KT: Tell me something, when Kashmiris look and see that all their top people are Hindus, but they themselves are Muslim, does it feel to them – this may be an exaggerated term – does it feel to them like some form of colonial rule?

FA: We feel we are slaves. 

KT: You mean that?

FA: Yes, I mean that.

KT: Ghulami

FA: Yes, we are ghulams. 

KT: Aur Hinduon ke?

FA: That whatever they want to do they can do.

KT: Modi sarkar ke hulam ban gaye ho aap.

FA: Hum ghulam baithe hain wahan pe. Ghulam! Totally ghulam. Raha kya? Avaaz nahi utha sakte, bandh kardenge, goli maardenge. Yehi toh Angrezon ne bhi kiya na? Unhe jo apne jo taakat do sau saal jo istemal ki, kis tarah ki? [40:45 – unclear] baadshah kar li inhe. Hamaare kuch…le lenge hi. Chalega nahi!

KT: Mera aakhri sawaal. The Lieutenant Governor keeps saying he’s preparing for state elections, we don’t when they’ll be held but the government says they’ll be held sooner or later. When they are held, will the National Conference contest and, secondly, will Farooq Abdullah contest?

FA: Let me tell you one thing, it’s not Farooq Abdullah’s decision, it’ll be the decision that we’ll make of my party, and the parties that are in Gupkar declaration. 

KT: But you’re the president of your party.

FA: I am the president, but president is not dictator.

KT: But what is your thinking? Would you want-

FA: No, no it’s not the question of thinking. The president listens, in a democracy, to the others. 

KT: So, the party will collectively decide.

FA: Party will collectively decide, it is never going to be like today, here, one man decides. 

KT: But you’re also suggesting that if the majority in your party say let’s not contest, and Farooq wants to contest, Farooq will fall in line with the majority.

FA: This is conjecture. I would not go into this thing because we do not know what the party will decide. That time has not come.

KT: But the party will decide. 

FA: When that time comes, I’ll come and see you and tell you, this is what party has done and this is what Gupkar committee, that is there, has decided. 

KT: In fact, you’re saying, it’s not just the party that will decide, all the parties together – that have signed the Gupkar declaration – will decide together. 

FA: Yes, every party will decide it’s own, then unitedly we will sit down and see what is best for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. 

KT: So, it will be a united decision taken by-

FA: It has to be a united decision if you have to beat the fascist forces.

KT: Taken by the Gupkar parties together.

FA: Yes, yes.

KT: One last question. Not so long ago your son Omar wrote an article for the Indian Express that as long as Kashmir remains a union territory, he won’t contest. Are you saying –

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FA: That is his personal decision, that is not party decision. That is his – anyone can take personal decision, but he cannot speak for the party. 

KT: But what happens if the party says, “We want you to contest,” to him? Will he fall in line? 

FA: That is for him to decide. Nobody can force anyone, this is a democracy inside my party. 

KT: But, that is his personal decision, not a party decision?

FA: Cannot be a party decision, cannot be. He can put his decision before the party and say, ” These are the reasons,” it is the party that has to listen at that time and move on. 

KT: Dr. Abdullah, I thank you for this open, passionate interview that, I think will awaken people – particularly south of the Banihal line – to how Kashmiris view what’s happened, and how they feel towards the rest of their countrymen. And, as you said, how every close the rest of the country has come to losing any emotional hold on Kashmiris. 

FA: Yes, you’re right.

KT: Thank you very much indeed. Take care, stay safe.

FA: Thank you Karan, thank you very much. God bless you.

KT: Thank you, sir.

The video of the interview can be found here.