‘I don’t have a passport nor am I going to have one till I die’
• Maqbool Bhat was our worker
• India and Pakistan always forced their will on Kashmir
• I have never accepted accession to India. I’m a person from Kashmir, a free country
• Agencies made fake case against Afzal and hanged him
• Jagmohan provided SRTC vehicles to take Pandits out of Kashmir
• If few Pandits were killed, why this hue and cry? Does anyone have the count how many Kashmiri Muslims were killed?
Sheikh Nazir Ahmad, cousin of National Conference President Farooq Abdullah was the oldest stalwart of Abdullah family. A lawyer by profession, Nazir was until recently the General Secretary of NC and made important decisions of the party. He was very close to NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and looked after the party affairs for several decades. He played an important role in NC governments in the state. He always used to curse New Delhi and its leaders. A firebrand leader, who chose to remain single, Nazir died on early morning of 24 February 2015 due to multiple-organ failure. Prior to deterioration of his health he spoke to Rising KashmirOnline Editor, Daanish Bin Nabi and talked about the betrayals and promises un-kept on Kashmir. Excerpts:
- Why did Sheikh Abdullah endorse 1975 accord after struggling for a long time?
Was Maharaja Hari Singh competent to sign accession to India? No. That is exactly what our autonomy report says. We have always said 1953 position of Kashmir be restored and settle the issue with Pakistan forever, be it ceasefire line, or the Line of Control. The situation in Pakistan had deteriorated after Dacca (Dhaka) fallout. One should read the 1975 accord against this background. Even government in Delhi wanted Kashmir issue be resolved amicably, once and for all. The accord is all about restoring pre-1953 status of Kashmir. An amicable solution to Kashmir issue is the bedrock of the accord. Kashmir Conspiracy Case had been registered against Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and his cadres. New Delhi spent almost Rs 5 crore at that time but couldn’t prove the case against Sheikh Sahab. When they arrested Sheikh Sahab, he was kept in a PWD warehouse that was converted into a special jail. When (Jawaharlal) Nehru suffered a heart attack toward the end of his life, he realised that they had misunderstood Kashmiris. He freed and called Sheikh Sahab to Delhi were he apologized to him. Both were good friends since British Raj. Such was the equation between them that Sheikh used to call him Jawharlal. In Delhi, Nehru said to him that he wanted to settle Kashmir issue before his death and asked Sheikh to travel to Pakistan. When Sheikh visited Pakistan, he motivated President Ayub Khan to come to New Delhi for talks. However, the sudden death of Nehru shattered everything.
- What are your views on accession to India?
Maharaja Hari Singh did not accede to either of the dominions. It was only when Pakistan raiders attacked Kashmir that he signed a conditional accession to India. Accession with India was clearly on three points – defense, communication and foreign affairs. Hari Singh did not ask India for military help. First, he requested it from Maharaja of Patiala, then from Maharaja of Gawalior. Both were his close friends. Although Maharaja of Patiala did send some troops known as Patiala Tigers, who were known for their well built and height, Pakistani raiders killed them all. Hari Singh was in his palace when V P Menon came to meet him. Menon offered him military support on condition that he should first join the India dominion. He did that but the accession was conditional. Then on October 27, 1947, Indian Army landed in Kashmir.
- So, do you believe in accession to India?
I have never accepted accession to India. I have never taken an oath anywhere. I have never accepted India’s supremacy. I’m a person from Kashmir, a free country. India and Pakistan have always forced their will on Kashmir. Had Pakistan not attacked Kashmir in 1947, we would have been an independent country.
- Why have you never applied for a passport?
I have never accepted Indian passport. When Sheikh Sahib had to visit Iraq, he wanted to take me along but I told him that I don’t have a passport nor am I going to have one till I die. But yes, I’m a Kashmiri and my nationality is Kashmiri not an Indian. Yes, I am contributing in whichever manner I can. Babe-e-Quom (Sheikh Abdullah) always referred to Kashmir as nation, never as Riyasat (State) because we were a very strong independent country. We have been occupied since Mughal period, and the occupation is still continuing till date. We defeated Akbar almost 17 times before he made inroads into Kashmir. We were a great nation. We were a great people of an independent country called Kashmir. I believe we should be given a free hand for running our own affairs. We have always said it to Indians. As far as Pakistan is concerned, had it not invaded us, our condition would have been different altogether. We would have emerged as an independent country had Pakistan not mingled with our affairs in 1947. Our actual struggle is for what Nehru promised to Babe-e-Quom at Lal Chowk in front of lakhs of people and New Delhi should fulfill those promises.
- Had there been no accession, what would have been the fate of Kashmir?
It was Maharaja Hari Singh who accessed to India. There is a wrong notion among people that Sheikh Sahab did. Who got Indian Army to Kashmir? Maharaja did. He had no authority either to go for accession or get the Indian Army to Kashmir. We had our own freedom movement in Kashmir. What was the need for Pakistan to invade our country? Had Maharaja not acceded to India we would have our own separate independent country. After coming to Kashmir, these liberating forces became occupiers of our land. They have occupied us. So we are a colony of India. They do whatever they want to do with us.
- On the one hand you talk of the rights of Kashmiris. On the other hand your government ruthlessly suppresses peaceful processions?
It is not us but the troops of Government of India like paramilitary forces, which is responsible for it.
- Isn’t the State government also responsible?
Yes, it is. However, the maximum damage to the lives or property is done by paramilitary forces. Our police is a disciplined force. They do not do anything without the orders of magistrate. They do not fire at protesters directly on head and chest as paramilitary forces do. Paramilitary forces have every law at their disposal like the AFPSA and other draconian laws.
- You do not travel to India. Why?
I travelled to India when I was a student at Aligarh Muslim University. After that I travelled to India only once. They had arrested Sheikh Sahab in 1971 and kept him in Delhi. Here in Kashmir, Sheikh Sahab’s youngest daughter Suriya Abdullah was getting married. Sheikh Sahib wrote to Indira Gandhi asking her permission to travel to Kashmir for attending his daughter’s marriage. She denied. Then Sheikh Sahib wrote to me and asked me to visit Delhi. He wanted to know about the marriage arrangements. When I arrived in Delhi and met him, to my utter surprise Sheikh Sahab sought to know the minutest details about the marriage like the guest list and arrangements made for the groom. He was very sensitive about the seating arrangement for the groom and told me that the groom be seated facing toward Maqdoom Sahab but not with the back toward Kabba. When I took instructions from him and was about to leave, Sheikh Sahab turned his face away from me. When I looked into his eyes, tears were rolling down his cheeks. Seeing him in such a condition was a shock for me. I thought how Delhi had crippled and caged Sher-e-Kashmir. This incident changed me forever. At that very moment, I decided I will never again visit India in my entire life. Indira denied a simple request of a father with an iron fist. (Breaking down into tears)
- And what about a similar request made to your party about saving Afzal Guru from the gallows. If Indira failed Sheikh, your party failed Kashmir?
Saving him was not in our hands. He was arrested in Delhi. His case was registered in Delhi. May his soul rest in peace! I was in touch with Afzal through his brother. I told his brother that we are doing everything we could to save him. We pleaded with Delhi to give Afzal a fair trial. Afzal was innocent and not involved in anything. Intelligence agencies just made a fake case against Afzal and then hanged him. He was made a scapegoat. NC tried its best to save Afzal. Omar Abdullah had no role to play in the case. It was Delhi which called all the shots. They never consulted NC or Omar Abdullah. Neither was Afzal a state prisoner nor was he arrested in Kashmir. He was jailed and underwent a trial in Delhi. I also took care of Maqbool Bhat when we were lodged in Central Jail, Srinagar. I secretly used to send rice for him in jail. Maqbool was our worker when he was in Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari. We educated him at Mujahid Manzil. He was extremely intelligent, a visionary and wanted to do something for Kashmir.
- Despite all this you have remained one of the top functionaries of NC, which strengthened India in Kashmir all these years. Why this contradiction?
No, it is a wrong notion. We don’t strengthen India in Kashmir. We are in a political system. We are doing it only for the betterment of people. We, time and again, tried our best to resolve the political problem of Kashmir. We will continue our struggle until this problem is solved amicably. We are fighting for the people of Kashmir.
- Sheikh Abdullah was a hero. Farooq and Omar have been disastrous. How do you look at NC’s future?
No doubt Baba-e-Quom Sheikh Sahab was undoubtedly a hero. As far as Farooq and Omar are concerned, put this question to them, not me.
- What was reason behind recent poll debacle of NC?
The reports we received from our party workers were that they were threatened and did not come out to vote. Various organizations sent threatening letters to our workers asking them not to vote. All those letters are preserved at Nawab-e-Suba. People were also kept near polling booths to keep a check on NC workers.
- But Omar Abdullah acknowledged the killings of youth in 2010 and Afzal Guru’s hanging led to NC debacle?
Yes, these were two major factors but it was New Delhi that killed Afzal Guru. Threat to our workers was also a major factor.
- How do you view the upcoming Legislative Assembly polls?
I can’t say anything. People of Jammu and Kashmir are masters and will decide. If people are satisfied with our programs, policies and the governances, then they may vote for NC. Money and muscle factor should not be there. There should be a completely free atmosphere in which people will come out and vote. Unfortunately that free atmosphere is not available.
- Why didn’t NC go for a pre-poll alliance with Congress?
The working president takes decisions on alliance. He consults everyone across the board. If he decides himself without consultations, then it is dictatorship. In 2008, I was the general secretary of NC. They did not consult me before going for an alliance with Congress.
- How do you view the return of Kashmiri Pandits?
Were Muslims not killed in Kashmir? Were only Pandits killed? If a few Pandits were killed why this hue and cry? Does anyone have the count how many Kashmiris were killed? If they blame Farooq Abdullah and Muslims of Kashmir, they should come forward and say so. Geelani Sahab and Mirwaiz Umar have rightly rejected the concept of satellite towns for the return of Pandits. They can come to their respective places but we cannot give them separate settlements. Pandits sold their property in Kashmir. They are also taking aid from the Government of India. Kashmiri Muslims did not oust them. Pandits have only one point agenda that is to mint money from wherever they can. NC passed a ‘Migrant Property Distress Sale Act’ resolution in the Legislative Assembly yet they sold everything only to mint money. Government of India, with the help of Mufti Sayeed, appointed Jagmohan as Governor of Kashmir. It was Jagmohan who provided SRTC vehicles to take Pandits out of Kashmir. That very time Farooq Abdullah as chief minister of state resigned. If they want to return, they should go back to their respective places not satellite towns.
- But there was a meeting between Omar Abdullah and Narendra Modi where the issue of satellite towns was discussed?
These may be Omar’s personal views not of the party. Before deciding on this issue he should take NC’s working committee into consideration. Omar Sahab has neither mandate nor authority to take decisions on return of Kashmiri Pandits. Before taking any decision, he should take everyone in consideration and listen to everybody’s views. Omar Sahab is the person to answer this question.