‘I am shocked that neither mainstream parties nor Hurriyat spoke against my arrest by NIA’

  • Irfan Mehraj
  • Publish Date: Dec 17 2017 9:49PM
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  • Updated Date: Dec 17 2017 9:49PM
‘I am shocked that neither mainstream parties nor Hurriyat spoke against my arrest by NIA’

He’s easily Kashmir's most outspoken maintream politician, but Engineer Rashid has been uncharacteristically subdued since he was scooped up and questioned by the National Investigation Agency earlier this year as part of its crackdown on alleged hawala operations in the state. Is this merely coincidence or is there more to his relative silence? Ink asked the Langate legislator 

 

Excerpts from the conversation:

 

After your questioning by the National Investigation Agency, you have been rather silent, which is quite unlike your style of politics. Can you tell us what happened with the NIA and why you have been silent since?

It’s not fear, absolutely not. If you recall, the moment I came out after questioning by the NIA, I said I’d never claim to have got a clean chit as long as the Kashmir dispute is alive. So, where is the question of silence? I didn’t succumb. I didn’t say like others that I have got a clean chit. I said as long as the Kashmir issue is there, we have to face these things. Regarding the other part of your question, that I have gone a bit soft in how I do politics, I don’t think so. It has to be situational politics. We are just trapped in this situation where people are dying. Show one statement of mine that you could see as me compromising my position. Moreover, when the braid chopping terror was at its peak, we led a protest against it in Handwara which was attended by thousands of people. A few days before that, we had led a protest in Langate. I have been on my toes. Yes, I missed writing a few articles in Greater Kashmir, but that was because I was busy with the NIA. 

The NIA asked whether I had met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when I went for umrah. I denied. I was asked about receiving donations from a businessman, which I again denied but said that getting donations was not a crime. They asked about my political position, my protests, my stand on the issue of Kashmiri Pandits.

I think you should wait for a while. The assembly is now in session; may be people will talk about these things there.

What the NIA sleuths did was their duty, but they could have done it differently. I have said the central government should not have used the NIA as a political tool to pressurise me or anybody else to give up our political position. They should fight us politically.

About my style of politics, I think it has worked, or I would never have been dragged to the NIA. It has become clear that you don’t need to be an MLA or in the Hurriyat to speak the truth.

They wanted to threaten me, but it was their own fear speaking. It is unfortunate that nobody spoke against my arrest by the NIA, neither the mainstream parties nor the Hurriyat. What does that indicate? That I am neither Indian, nor Pakistani. I am just pro-Kashmir.

I am writing a book about everything that happened with the NIA. This whole story started with India Today channel’s sting operation. I will soon be able to tell the truth; I will tear masks off the faces of politicians we have here.

I went to the NIA like I was an orphan, like I had nobody. It hurt me. The others were enjoying it, they were clapping. Shame on them. I’ll talk to them in the assembly and, through my book, I will reveal many things. I have done nothing wrong. People here have amassed crores of rupees. I publicly declared, in writing, how much property I owned when Arnab Goswami ran a story against me. In the book, I will reveal the conspiracy against me and who played key roles in it.

I am not on the streets also because I was disheartened and shocked that the political class didn’t respond to my arrest. I am still to come out of the shock, but I am not ignorant of my duties towards the people.

 

You are known for raising your voice against almost every issue faced by the people of Kashmir, but you have stopped doing that. Why?

Which issue have I stopped raising my voice on? I am very active on social media; see my videos. Whenever something happens, Engineer Rashid is the first to react. So I don’t think I have stopped doing that. 

But raising my voice doesn’t mean I have always to be on the streets. If I hold protests often, people say he has nothing else to do. I have always believed that a protest should be situational, depending on the circumstances. If an incident happens tomorrow and we need to protest, I will take to the streets.

 

Recently, when Kashmiri political prisoners in Delhi’s Tihar Jail were tortured, everyone spoke out. Not you. Why?

See, I would have hit the streets in protest but I was not here when that incident took place. I was on a nine-day trip to Karnataka and Maharashtra along with other MLAs. But you will see me on the streets soon. In any case, I was the first person to give a statement against the torture of Kashmiris in Tihar Jail.

And when I met the interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, I categorically told him that the least he could do was go to Tihar Jail and meet the victims of state terrorism there. I have also spoken against Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virendra Sehwag and others, and appealed them that instead of wasting time abusing Kashmiris, they should go to the house of Ehtisham (one of the victims of the torture) or to Tihar.

 

Do you think what happened in Tihar Jail will harm the dialogue that Delhi has sent the interlocutor to conduct?

Well, I don’t think any serious dialogue is happening. Still, I don’t think the Tihar incident will affect the dialogue in any real sense, because there is no option left for Kashmiris. It’s important for the Hurriyat and for every other stakeholder to find a way out of this crisis. I think a serious dialogue has not yet started, and whatever is happening is behind the scenes and I am not interested in that. Since the dialogue has not yet taken off, where is the question of the Tihar episode affecting it in any way.

Besides, the Tihar Jail episode is nothing new. Worse things have happened to us; people being tortured, blinded, arrested is routine. But obviously it is a big incident as it shows that Kashmiris are not safe even inside jail.

 

What do you make of Dineshwar Sharma’s appointment as the interlocutor for Kashmir? Is it a result of international pressure?

I think it’s a right step. The second part of your question is very important. Let’s be honest because we have been lying to our people for long. Firstly, the international community has failed miserably to do anything about Kashmir. The international community did nothing even when the militancy was at its peak. If they didn’t intervene then, I don’t think they are intervening now. Second, unfortunately, when there’s a problem and a Muslim name comes up, everybody is suspicious. So, I don’t want to disappoint Kashmiris, but I don’t the possibility of there being international pressure on India.

In the past, many interlocutors were appointed but nothing came of their efforts. Still, I think that we must wait and see what Dineshwar Sharma does, for two reasons. First, he publicly claimed that he was trying to meet the Hurriyat (it’s another matter they have jailed most of the Hurriyat leaders). Second, he has undertaken two visits to J&K so far and submitted interim reports to the central government each time. And after his first visit, some cases against Kashmiris were withdrawn – a small step in the right direction.

Although they have taken Article 35A to court as part of their strategy to make Kashmiris weaker by the day, Kashmiris must throw the ball back into their court. We should not run away from this.

When I met Dineshwar Sharma, I told that him that no solution was acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir other than the right to self-determination.

 

What are your political plans for the future? There is speculation that you will be a part of what’s come to be called Northern Alliance. Is this true?

I have said in the assembly that if for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, Engineer Rashid needs to meet even Raj Thackeray and Hafiz Saeed or join hands with anyone, I’m ready. So, if a political platform is emerging that promises to resolve the Kashmir dispute as per the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiri people, I would love to be a part of it. But I have no information about any such alliance.

Also, if I have only five or six MLAs with me, I will change the entire discourse on Kashmir. People should put their faith in me, and I will show them how the resistance movement needs to be run in today’s changing circumstances, domestic and international.