On her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed
He was not just my father, he was my companion. We shared everything. I don’t really get bogged down by critics but when he would say, ‘What have you done? Bewakoof ho?’, I would feel I’ve made a big mistake. He would say (my daughter is brutally frank). He wasn’t any less but he had his way of using words in a sophisticated, soft manner, which I don’t have. I remember if there was something we didn’t want him to share with the world, it would be the first thing he would bring up. If I didn’t go somewhere and if the guy showed up in our house the next day, I would expect my father to cover for me but he would immediately say, ‘it’s because of her mood swings that she did not show up’. He was very straightforward.
On her long political journey
When I fought my first election in 1996, it was out of compulsion. South Kashmir was affected by militants and we couldn’t find a candidate. As a result, my mother too had to fight elections. When I fought elections, nobody would come to listen because they used to be scared. Wherever there would be an incident, I would go there. That’s when I connected with the people. After I fought the elections in Bijbehara, I was on my way back when I was attacked. We found a safe spot and I saw some boys plucking walnuts from a tree. After some time, I noticed a group of women walking towards us, crying. My security was cross-questioning these boys about the firing and these women were crying, asking them to release them. I got off my car and said, ‘if you don’t let them go, I will spend the night here and won’t leave’. When I went back at night, people lined the roads holding lanterns waiting to meet me, to check if I was okay.
On dialogue and the appointment of a special representative
Well, as my father would always say, democracy is a battle of ideas and there is an idea of azadi and we cannot just wish it away. I don’t know how many people can really describe what it means for them. A 14-year-old cannot describe what azadi is but he too takes to the streets to shout slogans of azadi. The only way is to have a dialogue, which I am happy is happening for the first time with a representative (Dineshwar Sharma) of the Government of India. Unlike previous interlocutors, he has been given cabinet secretary’s rank. We have a PM at this time who is very powerful, who has a mandate and if and when he decides, I think he will be able to change the discourse and make history by resolving this issue once and for all.
On the agenda of alliance and the autonomy debate
We have put everything at stake with this historical decision. Power toh hum Congress ke saath bhi sarkar bana kar share kar sakte the (We could have shared political power even if we had aligned with the Congress) and we would not have come under so much criticism. You talk about autonomy, they say, ‘Oh god! autonomy is something that is anti-national…’ No. Self-rule talks about opening of routes, dialogue, reconciliation. It is all in the agenda for alliance. Where have we faltered on that?
On the demand for Azadi
As I have said so many times, we need to replace the idea of azadi with a better idea. My father would always say that whatever we have is enough, agar hum uski hifazat kar sakte hain (if we can protect it). We have our own Constitution, our own flag, and at the same time, we have a bigger constitution — the Constitution of India. We don’t need to go beyond these constitutions to resolve our issues. To replace this idea (azadi) with a better idea…why can’t we have J&K as a gateway for the country to central Asia? Why can’t we connect? It is very important that our people know what is on the other side of the wall.
Express Features Service