BY NAZIR JAHANGIR
Q: How would you compare Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah?
A: Sheikh Sahib was a political figure. He would act according the demand of time, but he proved a failure as administrator while Bakshi Sahib proved successful on this front. The later played an effective role in the progress and development of the State. Shaikh Sahib lacked conviction and never remained steadfast to his commitments. His nervousness forced him at times to backtrack. Bakhshi Sahib was resolutely firm to his commitments. He remained firm to his belief upto the last breath. Initially, the responsibility taken by Sheikh Sahib was really a great feat. I told Sheikh Sahib that this responsibility needs much wider shoulders than Gandhi Ji. Later some problems and complications crept up between him and New Delhi but instead of fighting against those obstacles and grieviences and being on problem-solving phase he stormed away and raised the slogan of “Rai Shomari” (plebiscite). Then after 22 years he opted another way and the past period was called ‘political wilderness’. All these ‘adventures’ manifest capricious mindset of Sheikh Sahib.
In reply to our next question Qasim Sahib said, that there were only national interests behind his leaving the chair and handing it over to Sheikh Sahib. We believed he would concentrate on the development and progress of J&K State and endeavour for establishing a strong relationship between State and Centre and root out the corruption, repair those ruffled feelings which were caused between people here and Centre due to mistrust, suspicion, concerns, apprehensions and progressive development of distrust. We hoped he will create an atmosphere of trust, confidence and reliance between Kashmir and New Delhi but he could not make it.
He endorsed the views of Mirza Afzal Beigh that the movement of plebiscite was wastage of time and termed it “political wilderness”.
Qasim Sahib repeatedly blamed Sheikh Sahib during this interaction of not being steadfast in his policies/commitments and changed his path many a times. He added, Sheikh Sahib would choose something and later retreat. Nevertheless, he admitted that Sheikh Sahib was essentially a secular politician but when he witnessed ideals of secularism decaying in the country he left the way instead fighting for it.
To our another question he didn’t agree to the perception that taking the reins of power by Sheikh Sahib was any political sellout. He further said, “Rajiv-Faroq Accord” is just share of power.
Q: If Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his companions could not mellow the outlook of Kashmiris, can it be possible for Farooq Abdullah to do it?
A: Kashmiris are a living nation (zinda quom). This nation has its own identity and culture. Kashmiris have been hurt by playing with their feelings.
When we solicited his opinion about growing extremism and bomb blasts in Kashmir, Qasim Sahib replied: claiming all is ok does not hold water while this statement of Farooq Abdullah too is an exaggeration that we are fighting war with Pakistan. “Yeh pait ka jhagda hai”. Kashmiris never got an administration in real sense. When democratic rights are denied, people are not given a fair opportunity to form their government of their own, unemployment rises, naturally such types of occurrences and situations are expected.
Q: Did you leave the chair in 1975 on your own will or were you forced to do it?
A: I was not forced. No question arises like that of force. That was an outcome of sustained understanding. I suggested Indra Ghandi that keeping Sheikh Sahib behind the bars is no solution to any problem.
Q: Did central leadership fulfilled all those pledges which they made to you on your transition of power to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah?
A: Niether there were any promises not did anyone cheat me.
Q: Then why did you leave the Congress Party? Wasn’t that a reaction?
A: The communication which took place after 1980 between me and Indra Ghandi is clear proof of this reality that when I felt roots of secularism in the country have weakened and its roots decaying I preferred to stay away from Congress Party. Congress played “Hindu Card” on several occasions for its own interests. Mrs Indra Ghandi gave many statements in Jammu which manifested her playing “Hindu Card”. I think collapse of secularism would disintegrate India. Another reason which compelled me to leave this party was its policy on Kashmir. Infact, it hasn’t any policy on Kashmir, and if there was any that was wrong.
Q: When you felt secularism is imperilled in the country, did you fight against the tide of this sentiment?
A: I attempted to form an united front of opposition parties at national level but I confess I could not succeed fully in my endeavor. Then I joined Lokdal Party.
Q: What were the causes those constrained you to quit this party also?
A: The whole policy of this party was not agreeable to me. Since its leader Mr Bahogana was a supporter of secularism so I favored him. I wished that some kind of “Third Force” emerge. When Bahogana passed away it left just two options for me, either keep the show going or achieve some objective.
Qasim Sahib confessed having played a vital role in managing to bring majiority of Lokdal members into Congress fold. When we wanted to know his views about Janta Dal Party, he called it an alliance of communal people, sectarian groups, opportunists, fascist and corrupt persons. He said, this party can never be a substitute of Congress (I).
Q: Some circles say that Kashmir issue is still unresolved, what is your take on the ‘status of Kashmir’?
A: My standpoint about it is clear. I have made my attitude clear on many times.
Q: Would you mind to repeat it?
A: In 1948 this issue was sorted out. Now whenever people here are upset and agitated Pakistan tries to derive some advantage from that volatile situation. Dr. Farooq Abdullah in order to conceal the internal unrest asserts to be fighting war with Pakistan. Upset and frustration lead a man to extremism. That’s natural and instinctive behavior of human. I am averse to violence.
Q: Aren’t police actions tantamount to atrocities and equally violence?
A: Police is an organized force so they act in a systematic way.
We asked Qasim Sahib his perspective about the relationship between religion and politics. There he seemed confused and lacking any conviction. His reply to our question was full of contradictions. On one hand he supported this relationship but after a little while called it wrong. First he viewed the integration of religion and politics important and later deviated from his own statement and favour its separation from each other. His concept on this subject was not clear.
He criticised the leaders of Jammat Islami and Moulana Farooq also.
Qasim Sahib referred himself a political teacher and said I give the people lessons of politics and as such endeavor to create political awareness among them.
(It was 28th May 1988. We had this interaction in Kashmiri language but later I translated it into Urdu and this interview was carried by the Daily for which it was meant. Now I translated it into English for its publication in
Weekly Kashmir Pen. ….)
Nazir Jahangir is a writer & columnist