NEW DELHI: The founder member of the Peoples Democratic Party Tariq Karra says that while the ruling party has lost the plot, its philosophy of being a buffer between extreme nationalism and extreme separatism remains intact. In an interview with The Citizen from Srinagar, Karra who has resigned from Parliament and the PDP as well speaks about the party he helped set up in 1999 maintaining there is not future left in Kashmir for the organisation. Excerpts:
Q. You were a founder member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Were you against the alliance with the BJP in the first place itself?
A. From Day One, I had been voicing my apprehensions about this unholy, unethical alliance. We had sought a vote against them, and by now entering into an alliance with them we would be betraying the voters. We know of theRSS/BJP mindset towards Kashmir, their historical background. I told Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the very beginning, look at the Indian scenario. The Muslims there are feeling very insecure, and if you cobble together this alliance, anything that happens there will have a direct bearing on us in Kashmir.
But Mufti sahab had his reasons. He said that the Congress is not in power, it cannot help us on talks with Pakistan, it cannot help us by bringing us closer to the government of India, it cannot help us financially, there are so many flood victims in need of assistance…
I wanted a secular grand alliance, with the Congress and the National Conference, but he brushed all this aside and went into an alliance with the BJP.
Q. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti had an opportunity to undo things, it did seem for a while that she was having second thoughts. Was she?
A. She was in mourning and there was a personal reason of course. But apart from this, yes she was in two minds. She was thinking about leaving the alliance, as she knew that the agenda for the coalition had not been implemented at all. I met here and told her, that you have a god given opportunity, we can address and redress all our problems. We have lost much ground because of the alliance but we can retrieve it. Yes she was in two minds.
But then the BJP tried many things. They came to me, offered me many things, money and…
A.Yes money, thats what I am telling you..
Q. And they wanted you to become the Chief Minister?
A. Yes. They asked me to form the government. I refused. There were five applicants for the CM’s post by then, and that is when Mehbooba Mufti decided to go ahead and form the government.
Q. So there was Muzaffar Beg and …?
A. (Laughs) I will tell you the other four another time .
Q.So now Mehbooba Mufti is a willing ally?
A. Yes a willing ally, more loyal than the king
Q. This is then the end of the PDP?
A. Of course it is. Workers are distancing themselves, bit today the situation is such that you cannot mention the PDP to anyone in Kashmir. You can’t talk about it. No one wants to hear it.
Q. Is it worse for the PDP than it was, is for the National Conference?
A. Much much worse. The NC positioned itself according to what it said, the PDP’s has been a complete turn around from the position it held, and today. Mehbooba Mufti was a popular leader, she had acquired a pan-Kashmir image, she was seen by the people as a sort of saviour. Now today, it is the complete opposite.It is for the government of India to explain what is happening in Kashmir, but it does not need to, as Mehbooba Mufti is speaking for New Delhi, defending GOI, speaking for it.
She has taken a completely contrary position to all that she stood for, she will be the first and foremost casualty.
Q. Isn’t this a big setback for Kashmir, in that a new alternative that had emerged in the state to the NC is over as you say? The PDP has been decimated on the ground?
A. In 1999 when we formed the PDP we had struck a middle path, through the two positions of utla-nationalism and ultra-spearatism. Thoese were the only positions in the Kashmir space then and the grey area, call it a buffer area, was filled by the PDP at the time. We were what I called a sandbag, absorning hits from both the camps and in the process we created a middle path.
Now the PDP has not just lost the ground, but lost the plot as well.
The relevance of the buffer area, the grey area has not diminished. The PDP has been decimated but its philosophy still holds good. Whatever emerges will not be in the shape of the PDP, it could be anything else.
As for the NC it is also carrying a great deal of baggage.
The situation is fluid so difficult to predict. But I am of the firm opinion that the philosphy of the PDP holds.
Q. So from this it does appear that you are thinking of starting a new political party. After all you were a founder member of the PDP.
A. Not necessary, not necssary at all
A. I have thought about various options. I think I have very limited options, as the mandate should not be further fragmented.It is a very serious issue, cannot do antyhing by which the electorate gets further fragmented.
Q. Is there an electorate there at all now?
A.Today every single mainstream partyis irrelevant. But if democracy has to move forward there will have to be elections one presumes, if not two years later, then three years, sometime
Q. What could Mehbooba Mufti do to regain lost credibility?
A. What credibility are you talking about? On the ground nothing is visible. Anything she says or does is a red rag to the Kashmiris now. The credibility was first eroded when we entered the coalition. It was further eroded when she became the Chief Minister. In the last two to three months it has been lost for good.
Q. What can the government of India do to regain a foothold in the Valley and diffuse tensions?
A.The government of India had a couple of opportunities that they missed. No one is ready to list to anyone now, who will talk to whom…
No such ground is left for India except repression and suppression, to economically suppress the people. The thinking of the RSS/BJP is to bring the Kashmiris to their knees. They don’t seem to understand that this is not the Kashmir of the 1990’s. The people have learnt to live in a war and conflict zone. Despite the endless curfew no one in Kashmir has died of starvation. (THE CITIZEN BUREAU)