‘Don’t become collaborators’: NC’s Ruhullah Mehdi to party workers

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National Conference (NC) leader Ruhullah Mehdi on Tuesday warned his party workers against being shortsighted in counting on early elections and as a result collaborating with those wanting to “oppress” the people of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Addressing a convention of party workers in Srinagar, Mehdi said that it isn’t the time “to count mistakes but to learn from them” and cautioned that elections were mere eyewash at a time when Kashmir is faced with existential threats. 

Mehdi questioned their silence in Kashmir despite having lost “everything” and implored his party workers to understand the “enemy” Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that, unlike the party, was committed to an ideology and a plan to “enslave” Kashmiri Muslims.

A former spokesperson of the NC and a former legislator, Mehdi has expressed his strong disagreement with his party in the past, unequivocally condemning New Delhi for unilaterally annuling J-K’s constitutional guarantees at a time when the NC had continued to maintain a silence.

Amid slogans in favour of the restoration of Article 370, Mehdi addressed party workers for nearly an hour. Here are some edited excerpts from his speech.

On Article: 370: We had acceded to India conditionally [in 1947], it was a provisional accession. It was based on a give and take: that we will join you but you [New Delhi] will give us an identity, special status in the constitution, rights and powers — that we call autonomy or Article 370. We have kept our promise regardless whether it was acceptable to the majority or not and now we are telling them [New Delhi] to keep their promise. We did it for seventy years but implementation has to be from both sides. Is it fair that we keep our promise but the other side won’t?

What I have understood of the National Conference in my twenty years as part of it, it is not a party, it is a tehreek (movement). It is unfortunate that we have forgotten this. A movement is not dependent on elections, DDC [District Development Councils] or municipalities. It is above these… The basic contention is that a movement should serve the movement, not a political party…

On Sheikh Abdullah: We were betrayed in 1947 but the fault wasn’t ours, we believed their [promises]. Sheikh Abdullah sahab had fought for 23, 25 years, [simultaneously] the situation was volatile in Pakistan, India, and Kashmir, Sheikh had to support the accession. People of that time could tell you better about the situation in which it was done. Accession had come about with a trust in India. India had told Sheikh Abdullah to take charge of Kashmir, they will bury the past. Sheikh Abdulah believed it…

On 1996 elections: From 1990 [the eruption of insurgency] till 1996 [the first elections after the insurrection] nobody spoke India’s name in Kashmir. India was being humiliated globally over Kashmir [for deploying] one lakh armed forces, widespread oppression, and denying a government or authority to the Kahsmiri people. [At that time] Narsimha Rao said that Kashmir should take power again, democracy should be restored, the sky is the limit… Dr. Farooq Abdullah believed it and contested the elections. Power came back into the hands of Kashmir, in Doctor sahab’s hands. But then where did Narsimha Rao and the parliament’s promises go? In 1996 they were being criticised across the world over Kashmir and they just used us to their own end. After the 1996 elections they had an answer, that why criticise us when the government and authority is in the hands of Kashmiris themselves, there is democracy. It wasn’t democracy. In Kashmiri it is called galwan’as gur hawale…  

On understanding the ‘enemy’: The first condition to win a war is to understand the enemy. It is only when we understand the enemy — its thoughts, intentions, politics and schemes — that we can fight and aim for success. But we still haven’t understood our enemy. You are waiting for elections to be held tomorrow but you have forgotten that the National Conference is a movement, the National Conference itself has forgotten that it’s a movement. But the RSS hasn’t forgotten that it is a movement. For us they are wrong but from their perspective, they have been working on their principles like tehreekis. RSS is an ideological party, a movement, which believes that Hindus didn’t have power in India for a thousand years. There were Muslims of different names ruling India and then Christians in the name of the East India Company. After independence, it was secularism and Hindus never got to rule India. Today they believe that the opportunity they have gotten [in seizing political power in India], they have to settle scores of those thousand years. They believe that Hindus are the only people in the world that don’t have a national government… The biggest prey is the Kashmri not just because they are Kashmiris but also that they are the only Muslims in India with a state. Muslims and on top of that those with their own state. They believe they must teach Kashmiris a lesson because they are Muslims and also take their state away to make them their slaves. Do you really think they will give power in your hands before they fulfill their plans?

On contesting elections: There is symbolic elected assembly. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t the Lieutenant Governor have the final authority? Tomorrow if a law is passed in the assembly, can the Governor not cancel that law? Cabinet ministers will issue orders but if the LG, an employee of the Government of India, doesn’t like it, can they not annul it with merely one signature? What do you want to go to the Assembly for? 

We are being betrayed the same way that we were in 1974, 1986, 1996, again and again. Back then at least the authority was with Farooq sahab or Sheikh sahab, There was some authority with us, we had rights to some things. Why do you want to get betrayed again when there is nothing in return, no authority…

What will we tell our future generations who won’t have rights over their own land, bread, religion, clothes, and language. Outsiders will settle in Kashmir to make us slaves. Do we want to keep slavery for our future generations? I can’t accept this… 

They [New Delhi] have only used us. What have they given us in return? They say we will make an assembly but powers will remain with the Governor… We must get statehood but with Article 370…

Who will give us our rights back? The BJP won’t. Tomorrow if the Congress returns it, they can snatch it again. They are big powers. When you are oppressed, the way to success is only in staying oppressed and not playing into the hands of the oppressor. At least realise that we are oppressed. Don’t become collaborators… The National Conference should stand on its feet and fight for our rights.

Look at Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh who are protesting for the prices of crops, to be able to decide it themselves. They have left everything. But forget the prices of the crops, you don’t even have a say in your future, those decisions are being taken by Amit Shah, Modi. Your own conscience is being sold and you have no authority, you are sitting on these chairs thinking about future elections…

We need to give sacrifices and have faith in God. India will come down on its knees and plead before us but only when you try fighting. Whether there is any result or not but at least we will be defeated in a fight. You have already said that we won’t fight because it is futile. That’s the difference. There is surrender and there is fighting, with faith in God in the outcome.

If you have any delusions that outsiders won’t settle here and rule over us, it is wrong. Tell me can you stop them from getting domicile certificates? That’s all they need. Ten or fifteen years later, lakhs of outsiders will easily have a domicile here… who will check if they are living here or not? How many families were issued this year? More than a lakh. At this rate, fifteen years later twenty lakh would have been issued. They [non-natives] will be on certificates on voter rolls and then elections will be of no use. Do you want to participate in elections or think about what happens twenty years down the line?

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