The ques­tion of Na­tional Con­fer­ence align­ing with the NDA sim­ply doesn’t arise

India Today - - WINNING - OMAR AB­DUL­LAH

Union min­is­ter at 29, Chief Min­is­ter at 39, third gen­er­a­tion politi­cian, ar­tic­u­late, and never far from con­tro­versy. At 43, Omar Ab­dul­lah leads a state where a new gen­er­a­tion knows nei­ther ac­tive mil­i­tancy nor a syn­cretic par­adise, only a sullen peace. Where be­ing Kash­miri is seen as be­ing dis­tinct from be­ing an In­dian. The con­duct of young Kash­miris, as of 67 Meerut Univer­sity stu­dents cheer­ing Pak­istan in their vic­tory against In­dia on March 6, doesn’t al­ways help. But as Ab­dul­lah says, there is no black and white about Kash­mir, only grey.

Q. Do you feel Kash­miri or do you feel In­dian? A. Was Akhilesh Ya­dav asked are you UPite or are you In­dian? Was Arvind Ke­jri­wal asked, do you feel like a Del­hi­ite or feel like an In­dian? Why is that when you come from Jammu and Kash­mir that is some­thing which is asked: Do you feel In­dian or do you feel Kash­miri? I feel both and I feel both with an equal amount of pas­sion. I don’t be­lieve it is nec­es­sary for me to feel more of one or less of the other, to be who I am. It is im­por­tant that we stop try­ing to ask people to prove their na­tion­al­is­tic cre­den­tials. I al­ways won­dered why my fa­ther did it. I asked him ‘why do you feel the need to con­stantly re­peat this?’ He said, well, it was ad­vice given to him by one of his gov­er­nors, the late Mr B.K Nehru, who said, ‘Fa­rooq if you don’t keep re­mind­ing people that you are In­dian, people will very eas­ily as­sume that you are not.’ I don’t feel the need to do that.

Q. What are your views on charges of sedi­tion be­ing slapped on the stu­dents in Meerut. A. It was overkill. What they did was mis­guided, I would go so far as to say that it was wrong. On the one hand, you are tak­ing a schol­ar­ship from the Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia and on the other hand, cheer­ing on like this. But that hav­ing been said, what they did wasn’t il­le­gal in a way. It’s part of what makes this coun­try great. I doubt some­thing like that would be eas­ily tol­er­ated in our neigh­bour­hood.

Q. Q. Will you align with NDA if Naren­dra Modi be­comes prime min­is­ter? A. Ab­so­lutely not. Na­tional Con­fer­ence’s re­la­tion­ship was more a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Na­tional Con­fer­ence and Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee—Va­j­payee as an in­di­vid­ual who brought people to­gether. We found it ex­tremely easy to work with him. I think our de­ci­sion was vin­di­cated by some of the steps that

THERE IS NO MODI WAVE IN THE COUN­TRY. AWAVE IS WHAT YOU SAW RA­JIV GANDHI GET AF­TER THE AS­SAS­SI­NA­TION OF INDIRA GANDHI.’’

he took with Jammu and Kash­mir, the way he reached out to Pak­istan, the way he sought to mend re­la­tions with them and the ini­tia­tives he took within the state. I don’t see any­one in BJP to­day who comes even close to what he was.

Q. If BJP govern­ment comes to power, do you think they will re­scind Ar­ti­cle 370? A. They can’t touch Ar­ti­cle 370 with­out the con­sent of the state.

Q. If you were to give Rahul Gandhi ad­vice, what would it be? A. I def­i­nitely would not do it through a pub­lic fo­rum like this. I would find a slightly more pri­vate way of do­ing it. All I would tell him right now is not to back off af­ter one in­ter­view with one chan­nel.

Q. What’s your view on Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act (AFSPA)? A. I think we need to dis­tin­guish be­tween le­gal cover and im­punity. The sort of cover they get right now means they can pretty much do as they please with­out fear of con­se­quences. The fear has to be built back into the sys­tem, the le­gal cover to op­er­ate still needs to be given to them.

Q. What is the one thing you want to do for young Kash­miris? A. I want to take out the un­cer­tainty in their lives. The fact is that they have been brought up on a diet of un­cer­tainty—un­cer­tainty about the fu­ture of Kash­mir, un­cer­tainty about their own fu­ture, their own phys­i­cal fu­ture; for­get about their eco­nomic fu­ture.

Q. Is there a Naren­dra Modi wave in the coun­try? A. I think we tend to overuse the term ‘wave’. A wave is what you saw Ra­jiv Gandhi get af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of Indira Gandhi. But there is no doubt that there is an ef­fect Modi has had on the elec­toral process and I see it on the ground in Jammu as well.

RO­HIT CHAWLA

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