‘Separatists Have To Understand They Too Are Indians’
A proud RSS man, Kavinder Gupta swapped chair with his party colleague, Nirmal Singh, to become Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in May almost three years after becoming first BJP speaker of the Muslim majority state Legislative Assembly. The development came on the heels of public shaming and subsequent pressure on the right-wing party to go for a major overhaul of its share in state council of ministers in PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti following rape and murder of a minor in Kathua.
Inside the house, Gupta has been vocal about his proud past as an RSS affiliate but it has not stopped him from even taking his party men to task. However, for most of time he has been way from media glare. It was only recently in February this year that he blamed Rohingya refugees for militant attack on army camp in Sunjwan. It created furore and Gupta retracted.
In a freewheeling conversation with The Witness Post (TWP) at his Srinagar office in civil secretariat, Kavinder Gupta (KG) talks from elections to government of India’s announcement about dialogue with the resistance camp.
Here are the excerpts:
TWP: The PDP-BJP coalition government has completed more than half of the tenure? How do you see the alliance now?
KG: The results of assembly elections came on 23 December 2014 but the government was formed on March 1, 2015. The people of Jammu gave their mandate to BJP while in Kashmir PDP emerged the largest party. Lots of possibilities were explored for government formation by Congress and National Conference. Had they formed the government it would have meant no representation of Jammu (region). Keeping the entire state in sight, we formed the government.
We, (the coalition partners) have different ideologies. Our party is firmly on our ideology, even today. The government is functioning smoothly because of our development-oriented motive. That is why the government went on and I believe we will complete our six years tenure successfully.
TWP: What have been the challenges for this coalition?
KG: It is my personal belief that previous governments had neglected the regions of Jammu and Ladakh and there was clear discrimination. Jammu people were having high expectations from BJP. To meet their expectation was our major challenge.
Today if you seeIIM, IIT, Central University, AIIMS or other developmental works, priority is given to Jammu and Ladakh as much as to Kashmir.
Kashmir is similarly important. We will not discriminate against it. The challenge was to treat all regions equal and we succeeded in it.
The people of Jammu and Ladakh were neglected in every aspect and we tried our best to take them on board.
The reason behind the restive situation in Kashmir is, if we see politically, because of some unfair elections. There was no fair counting (of votes) ever. It has been there since 1947!
Sardar Patel acceded (ghathan) 567 (princely) states. What (Pandit Jawahar Lal) Nehru did to maintain his friendship is the “reason of separatism” in Jammu and Kashmir.
We want peace. Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) came to Kashmir during floods and on Diwali, because our party wants to see Kashmir really as a paradise.
Having our government, Delhi plays a very important role in running the government. Modi Ji came to our state for 12 times in last three years. Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) paid numerous visits. It reflects that honest efforts are being made so that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are given equal importance. We want better connectivity between all the three regions and (for that) we started work on Zojila tunnel which should serve as an example. I don’t think there is scope for anything else when our only focus is on development.
TWP: How do you see the GoI decision to cease the anti-militancy operations during Ramazan?
KG: Ceasefire seems successful in bringing peace which Pakistan doesn’t want.
Recently, a youth was killed after he came under CRPF vehicle in Srinagar. We feel the pain. We feel sad about the parents, it hurt us too. But we have to understand there is a power (which is) provoking these youth. Otherwise, mothers of some youth, who have joined militancy, pleaded them to return back.
I think this is a great opportunity for all of us. Political parties, social organizations, civil society should play a pro-active role. If we all will give our genuine efforts I think there will be peace in Kashmir.I have visited a lot of countries but the affection I have for the soil of Kashmir is unmatched.
Home Minister of India expressed his honest views with open heart. He has asked even Hurriyat Conference for the talks. Now, it is up to them how they will avail this opportunity. If they truly want peace in Kashmir, they must come forward for the talks.
I want to tell separatists that basically we all are Indians. This is a country where hundreds of languages are spoken, people live in diverse cultures, but despite that, we are one country.
In other countries, a particular people are given importance, unlike India, which is proudly world’s largest democracy. They will have to understand this. If they think of going with someone else, that is not possible.
TWP: There has not been any major attack following the ceasefire. What message does it convey?
KG: This is good. I think they (militants) have also accepted the ceasefire. If security forces will come under attack they will retaliate. The ceasefire should not be for the Ramazan only. I wish it lasts forever!
TWP: It is being alleged that youth face regular harassment at the hands of government forces which is one of the reasons they join militancy. Do you agree?
KG: Security forces work in entire India like this. Our forces personnel don’t want to come out of their barracks unless there are provocations. There might be some cases of excesses and harassments by the forces that will have to be taken care of.
Even, I will advocate revocation of AFSPA if people live in a peaceful manner like it has been done in some other parts.
TWP: The situation in Kashmir, particularly in southern parts, is restive. Political parties are not able to hold even small rallies, openly. Do you think space for pro-India parties is lost?
KG: This sort of situation has been witnessed in Punjab as well in past. In Jammu and Kashmir, we have faced such sorts of things, time and again; civil society has to step forward. Also, those who are behind it have to be taught a lesson. We have to identify them. Till then the situation is not going to change.
TWP: What about the compromises of your party, Article 370 and other issues?
KG: On the first visit of Prime Minister, if you recall, he said it in clear terms that if Article 370 separates this state it can be dangerous for us but if there are some good things in it we can adopt them. But the unfavourable things in it should be abolished.
We can debate and discuss these issues, there is no harm in that. What matters is the progress of Jammu and Kashmir.
TWP: Kathua case created a political storm; don’t you want justice to be delivered?
KG: Whatever happened (in Kathua) should not have happened. She was our daughter as well. But some people had begun scoring political points out of it. We want justice for the girl and may God save us from such horrific incidents in future. It was a shameful act. Our heads lie in shame. We the people of Jammu and Kashmir, basically, believe on Sufiyat and are humble by nature. There have been these sorts of incidents in other states but not in our state. This cannot be tolerated. Those who are involved should be given an exemplary punishment. Also, our Prime Minister took extraordinary step by passing the law that capital punishment is given to people involved in such horrific incidents.
The voluntary resignation of two of our ministers depicts our seriousness to bring justice to the victim family.
TWP: Do you think the investigation has been fair? You were demanding CBI inquiry.
KG: Investigation has been done, let it be. It is the matter of justice. Important for us is justice, nothing else.