More We Remain Silent, More Criminal It Is: Aga Ruhullah

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SRINAGAR: Rumblings in Kashmir’s grand old party arose on May 24, the first day of Eid, when its Budgam face questioned the party’s silent stand on the swiftly taken steps in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In a series of tweets, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi, National Conference’s Chief spokesperson, said while the government was doing a job, the hands and thoughts of local leaders were not tied.

“If the objective is not only elections, we are only in a political process,” he said. “Many of my colleagues are detained under the PSA. Others including me are put under house detention. My heart goes out to them and I wish & pray for their immediate release. But, believe me their and our (house) detention is a political message and process itself.”

The articulate leader who plunged into politics following his father’s assassination in 2000 said the political leaders of Kashmir should not be seeking permission from the government for various things as it would mean doing only what the government wants them to do.

His tweets came as a sharp retort and response to his party colleague, Tanvir Sadiq’s article in a local daily.

While calling for the release of all political leaders, Sadiq in his write-up exhorted the government to allow resumption of the political process.

“What is a political process for you? Only an election?” Mehdi quizzed Sadiq. “If we go with a reason and stand our course, even being detained is a part of political process.”

Mehdi said he was ready to be taken from his home to a prison but would not ask permission of the government to do what he wants.

As his tweets triggered a new political row in the valley, the former cabinet minister, and a three-time legislator—who has pinned a telling tweet on his handle: “The axe forgets, but the tree remembers”—in an exclusive interview with Kashmir Observer talks about his party’s growing political posturing in J&K.

INTERVIEWER

What made you question your party colleague’s article? Aren’t you happy with NC’s response to post-Article 370 situation in J&K?

RUHULLAH MEHDI

I can’t say, if I’m happy or not. Let my party respond. We’ll have some clarity after that. But yes, as of now, I may, or mayn’t, agree with my party colleagues’ opinions.

However, as National Conference is yet to respond to the J&K situation, it becomes a different thing, if we’re taking or losing time.

In this backdrop, my response to my party colleague, Tanveer Sadiq, was to his individual opinion. I hope, his opinion doesn’t reflect the party stand.

INTERVIEWER

But what if the party agrees with Tanvir Sadiq’s opinion?

MEHDI

Well, I don’ think I might be okay with that.

INTERVIEWER

What do you think is the dominant opinion of your other party colleagues?

MEHDI

Honestly speaking, I don’t know their opinion, as I haven’t met them personally yet.

INTERVIEWER

But don’t you think it’s too late, too little to know that now, given how BJP is already implementing its policies in J&K?

MEHDI

See, the party has its own justifications regarding their response, and I may not, personally, like those justifications. Because, I believe, we’re losing our precious time.

The other day, BJP’s Ram Madhav said it quite openly that they’ve done their job in Kashmir. According to him, there’s hardly anything for us to do in Jammu and Kashmir now. And mind you, this is coming from the general secretary of the ruling party!

So, yes, they’re doing their job. Whatever their objectives had, they’re done with it. And in the process, we’re losing it.

And therefore, it’s my personal opinion, that more we remain silent, more criminal it is.

INTERVIEWER

But why is there a silence in your camp?

MEHDI

See, the party leadership is waiting for the release of other colleagues. People like [Ali Mohammad] Sagar Sb [NC General Secretary], and others are still under detention.

The other justification is that the Working Committee, the decision making body, is yet to meet. Technically, the body can’t meet, till the detained leaders aren’t released.

And this is where the hitch lies.

Until and unless the committee meets, the party can’t take a final decision.

But while I agree that the decision-making body has a role, individual opinions and NC’s age-old political stand equally matter. We can immediately take a decision based on the NC’s near century-old principles.

As the oldest political force of J&K, we know our principles, our stand — Autonomy, Article 370, individuality of the state, the rights and respects that constitution has guaranteed us.

So, yes, let me tell you, in case people are wondering, we can have an opinion on what happened on August 5. Our party doesn’t need to wait for the Working Committee to get together, and take a final decision.

INTERVIEWER

What according to you should be the party line right now?

MEHDI

I believe, we can have our opinions, and should convey them to New Delhi.

Thing is, NC hasn’t forgotten what we, as a party, always stood for. Both individually, and collectively, we can make it known to everyone, that whatever happened on August 5 is unacceptable, and that, we haven’t surrendered to it, and we don’t agree to it. This is how I think and feel.

I believe that’s the course the Working Committee can sit, and decide.

INTERVIEWER

But then, your party leader, Omar Abdullah is repeatedly saying that he’ll talk about the issue when the right time comes. Any idea, when will that right time come?

MEHDI

You should ask this question to him, as he’s the right person to answer: why he and others are silent—and, when’ll be the right time for them to speak up on the issue.

For me, as an individual, the right time was post-August or any time after that. Unfortunately, since then, we’ve already lost a lot of time. I don’t say we should pick-up the gun against New Delhi’s moves, but we should be seriously doing some talking now.

Since August 5 is not acceptable to the party, who’s stopping us to tell people that NC hasn’t surrendered.

INTERVIEWER

But then, your detractors say, NC’s party line stands compromised today, given how the 4G politics has taken a center-stage in your party ranks now? Is this your stand as well?

MEHDI

Listen, the day the party clears its stand on the situation, I will announce my decision.

As of now, my stand is clear. I’m not going to compromise on my principles.

I also agree that NC is taking too much time to clear its stand, and that too, when New Delhi is doing its job and people of the Jammu and Kashmir are made to suffer.

We shouldn’t remain silent, and lose more time now. It’s the time to do some talking.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib did his Masters in Convergent Journalism from Central University of Kashmir (CUK) and is currently working with Kashmir Observer as Special Correspondent. He has been contributing stories for the newspaper especially on Politics, Security & defence and has a keen interest in Environment.

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