Interviewed by Fahad Shah
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has its one legislative representation in Jammu and Kashmir state legislature. Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, from the Kulgam constituency of South Kashmir, won the seat bagging 81, 000 votes (34 percent), defeating 17 other candidates. He supports maximum autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and regional autonomy for the region. He believes that the ongoing protests in Valley resulted from a deep alienation caused by the erosion of special constitutional guarantees for the state.
How did you land in politics?
I am from a village Tarigam, in Kulgam (South Kashmir). My actual name is Muhammad Yusuf rather and I belong to a peasant family. I did my graduation from the Government Degree College, Anantnag. It was in 1967 when I was arrested first time after I organised a meeting of peasants to solve some problems in Katroosu village. I was lodged in police station Kulgam along with my brother and a cousin. I was active in student politics. In 1971, I was arrested under Preventive Detention Act for 21 months. When my daughter was born, I was in Jammu jail. Unfortunately, my wife died during the birth and I couldn’t even attend her funeral.
When Maqbool Butt was arrested in 1976, I was arrested yet again because police had found my name written in his personal diary. I had never met him. I have been underground several times and remained in jail for more than seven years.
What was the point of view of Communist Party of India when the Kashmir problem started in 1947?
I can’t speak of that time as I was not even born. I can say communists have been active in Jammu and Kashmir even before 1947 and were actively involved in many important mobilisations. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has done a remarkable work in Jammu and Kashmir. When the famous Shalbaf Movement (Shawl weaver’s movement) broke out in 1965 our party was active in that. Naya Kashmir document was prepared by the Communist Party. This document was progressive for that time but now it has to be updated. The communists have, no doubt, also made certain mistakes. I don’t say we never made any mistakes.
What is the point of view of Left Block now on Kashmir. Do you, as left, support the Kashmiris’ right to self determination? Also, tell us if the CPI and CPM think on the same lines when it comes to Kashmir?
The CPI (M) is having a central committee meeting soon and Kashmir is on agenda. We demand maximum autonomy from union of India and regional autonomy within the state. We believe Kashmir acceded in special circumstances and there are special constitutional guarantees which have not been respected.
We believe it enjoys a special status which has been eroded undemocratically by successive governments. Ongoing turmoil is the reflection of massive and deep alienation caused because of that erosion.
Restoration of constitutional guarantees is the pre-requisite for peace. Jammu and Kashmir is diverse and we oppose any kind of its separation. I have moved a resolution that solution must take care of diversity and no further division of the state. It will make the problem more complex.
Soviet Russia and India were allies during the Cold War. Hence at UNO, Soviet Russia did not support Kashmiris. How would you see that Soviet role?
I am not the spokesperson of Soviet Russia. Today, Russia is a capitalist state. I can’t be defender of Russia. I am not the one who will subscribe to Communist Party of the Soviet Union in foreign affairs.
Like Jamaat Islami , the left in Kashmir has not gone beyond a certain constituency. What explains this failure?
It can, partly be failure on our part as well. But primarily and certainly it is the complexities of the situation. It’s not that CPI (M) is confined to one part only. We have our representation in many parts of the state. CPI (M) distributed five lac rupees for the relief of persons injured in the ongoing turmoil.
How do you view the ongoing movement? Is Pakistan involved? What should be done?
The people here voted in the 2008 state elections. However, there has been a cycle of ‘terror’ and ‘counter-terror’. I believe that nobody has the right to kill anyone.
It’s the deep rooted disillusionment and alienation essentially responsible for the present turmoil. Only a few years back there was a hope. Some confidence building measures (CBMs) were taken but everything came to a halt later on. Dialogue must go on with Pakistan despite all sorts of circumstances and provocations. It is in the benefit of two countries and especially the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
One way or the other, Left in India and Kashmir, says what Congress or the BJP says. How then, the left can become an alternative?
We are entirely different on every count. BJP is a Hindu fascist organization. We are left. If there is anything good for the people from anywhere left supports that. I heard Geelani and Mirwaiz calling for America’s help in solving Kashmir but how can the USA solve it.
What is the solution in your view?
State should have maximum autonomy that means real extensive autonomy. Relationship with union of India should be extensively federal and there should exist, regional autonomy for regions. We must also, develop co-federal relations with Pakistan administered Kashmir.