After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, there has been a ‘total wipeout’ of Muslims from bureaucracy in Kashmir and all important posts are held by Hindus, said National Conference chief and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah in conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express and author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai in TNIE Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter.
What was your seven months in detention like? What was it like seeing your state relegated to the status of a Union Territory?
What gave me strength was the holy Quran. What hurt me the most is that Union Territories get converted into states while in this case, the crown of India was mutilated. This hurt us all — every one of us. We were and are a Muslim majority state. We joined knowing fully well that it is a Hindu majority India. The tallest leader of that time, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was the one who introduced Article 370 when (Jawaharlal) Nehru was away in America and he assured the Muslim majority that their dignity will be held high. Where is that gone?
Do you feel this is something that is absolutely irrevocable? Or do you sense that they are willing to reconsider it?
They did not even allow me to speak in Parliament. You can imagine their intention. On the very first day, we asked for time to discuss what we have gained and what we have lost by doing this in Kashmir. Others like the Congress joined me in seeking this discussion, but there was no discussion.
BJP says the demographic nature of Kashmir has changed. Earlier, it had Kashmiri Pandits, too, and now it just has Kashmiri Muslims.
We have never said they (Kashmiri Pandits) are not part of Kashmir. There were other forces that made the Pandits leave, not Kashmiris.
Do you feel it is being done to change the demographic nature of Kashmir?
Every day we see it.
What is the evidence of it?
When we were in power — be my father, I, my son, Mufti Sahab or others — Hindus and Muslims were equally distributed in the bureaucracy. Today, you have the L-G who is Hindu, the DG and the two IGs are Hindus. We had representation from both communities…Today, that balance is not there. There is a total wipeout.
Do you think only one community has the brains and the other community does not have any brains at all?
What about the internet connection? The rest of the country has 4G and will soon have 5G. Why deny that to our children and our businessmen? What about the tall promises that were made that everything will be hunky dory once Article 370 is gone? They say three families looted J&K. How do we then have the hospitals, institutions, schools in Kashmir? How is it that no farmer has committed suicide?
What is your advice to people in the Valley who look to you for hope?
How can I advise them? People call me New Delhi’s puppet. They say, I sing bhajans and say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’. They (the government) have left me no room…Some call me Pakistani and some call me kafir.