'Slowly Dying': J&K CPI(M) MLA Yousuf Tarigami Rips Into Centre

Tarigami is the first prominent politician from the Kashmir Valley who has been able to speak to the media.

New Delhi: In his first public appearance after the Supreme Court relaxed his house arrest, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, the four-time CPI(M) MLA from Kulgam in Jammu and Kashmir, hit out at the Union government’s claims of normalcy in the Kashmir Valley. 

“Forty days have passed since the clampdown was imposed. There is no internet, no telephone; hardly any shop is opening; the hospitals are reporting of medicine shortage; schools and colleges have remained shut. Yet, the government claims that everything is normal,” he said at a press conference, asking reporters whether everything would have been deemed ‘normal’ had there been such a lockdown in the national capital. 

Commenting on the Centre’s move to dilute Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, he said, “The very foundations of unity between the Indian union and J&K was assaulted by those who are mandated to protect the Indian Constitution.”

Also read | Detained Kashmiri CPI(M) Leader Yusuf Tarigami to Be Moved to AIIMS from Srinagar: SC

Speaking at the CPI(M) headquarters in the national capital on Tuesday, he said that the people of Kashmir feel betrayed by the Union government’s decision which was taken without any “discussion and debate”. 

“The government has forgotten that the people of Kashmir had refused to listen to the diktats of Pakistan and had decided to join secular India when Maharaja Hari Singh himself was dilly-dallying on his decision,” he said, adding that “those bonds” have now been severed. 

“India is also my country. I am not a foreigner. Take us along with us. An average Kashmiri does not want anything else from the Union government. Just listen to them,” he appealed to the Union government, adding that there is a ‘trust deficit’ between people of Kashmir and the Indian establishment. 

He said that the only “moments of freedom” he has enjoyed in the last 40 days were in New Delhi and not in his hometown, Srinagar. “I have seen horrible days in Kashmir, but never have they been this worse,” he added. 

Also read: CPI(M) Leader Tarigami Can Go Back to J&K, Says Supreme Court

“Despite the lockdown, the government has been saying koi mara toh nahin na (no one died, no?). Arey, mar rahe hai, dheere dheere mar rahe hai. Ghutan ho rahi hai wahan (We are dying, dying a slow death. There is suffocation there in the valley),” Tarigami said, adding that the government should give Kashmiris a reason and opportunity to live.

He said that the Centre’s decisions have only “humiliated” Kashmiri people and “mobilised those who want to destabilise Kashmir”, hinting at the fact that the separatists and pro-Pakistan groups in the valley may get more room to advance their propaganda. 

Tarigami is the first prominent politician from Kashmir valley who got a chance to speak freely to the media. The others are still in detention and have been refused any access to the media. 

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who was present at the presser, said that Tarigami has fought terrorism in the valley all his life, and has even lost his family members in the process. 

“Yet, leaders like him have been put under detention,” he said. 

Yechury thanked the team of lawyers led by senior advocate Raju Ramachandran who had filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of Yechury to get Tarigami out of house arrest.  

Following the apex court’s order, Tarigami was permitted to visit New Delhi’s AIIMS for treatment. On September 16, the apex court ruled that Tarigami was free to go back to Srinagar, his hometown, whenever he wishes to. The decision on the writ petition that questions Tarigami’s detention, however, is still pending at the court. 

Kashmiris walk past broken window glass after clashes between protesters and the security forces on Friday evening, during restrictions following the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the government, in Srinagar August 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

Yechury said that Tarigami would soon file a petition against the Centre’s decision to dilute Article 370 and “reorganise the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“It is clear that the ground situation (in J&K) is completely contradictory to what the government is claiming,” Yechury said.

“The move has completely insulated and isolated people of Kashmir. We believe that things can only be ‘normal’ only when people’s lives are normal,” he said. 

Commenting on the slapping of the Public Safety Act on the National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, he said the government used the draconian act only as an “afterthought”. 

“His father Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq himself, and his son Omar are the most ardent supporters of Kashmir’s integration into India. It was only when a habeas corpus petition moved against his illegal detention, the government thought of the PSA.”

“It is a very wrong thing to do. From August 5 (when Centre announced its decisions) till yesterday, there was no charge against him. And suddenly, he is being seen as a threat to public safety,” Yechury said. 

He said as far as CPI(M) is concerned, its “fight against terrorism is non-negotiable.”