Ravinder Raina, President of the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in an interview to Rising Kashmir’s Yawar Hussain talks about polity and party’s stand on important political concerns in the state.
Q: Mission 44 was your slogan in the last election. Is it possible for BJP to achieve it this time in the State?
A: Yes it is possible. The way Narendra Modi government has worked in India, people have become aware that BJP is a party for the poor people. In J&K people were threatened on the pretext that BJP would be detrimental to the State’s interests. But when the ministers from Kashmir used to hide, the BJP ministers went to every nook and corner to help people in distress.
Q: Does BJP have allies in the State?
A: We will fight assembly elections on our own. We will cross the 44 mark and the next chief minister will be from the BJP. Jammu was with BJP since 1947 but now Kashmiri people also know that BJP people are honest and trustworthy.
Q: You say that you will win the elections in the Valley and next CM would be from BJP. But you haven’t organized any election rally in Kashmir?
A: We are working for a rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kupwara. We have given 3 percent reservation to Paharis along with reservation to Gujjars and Bakerwals in promotions. BJP is the real sympathizer of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Pharis, SC and ST who live in Handwara, Karnah, Gurez and other areas of Kupwara.
Q: The BJP’s stand on Articles 370 and 35-A has been clear. Then why didn’t the BJP repeal them through an ordinance or through a constitutional amendment?
A: We don’t have any animosity against either the Articles 370 or 35-A. We say that these articles have been very harmful to the people of the State. These Congress, National Conference (NC), and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders who say that Kashmiriyat would vanish if these articles go, should answer as to why the identity of Punjabi, Haryanvi and Bihari people has not vanished in absence of such laws. Nobody’s identity vanishes or is protected if one law is repealed or enacted in an area. Only 100 odd families have benefitted from these two articles.
Even the Kashmir University students don’t know what Article 370 is. I told a group of students that its repealing wouldn’t bring in other people but would bring in laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act 1989 of the Indian Parliament which would benefit the common folk. The peoples who don’t want such acts to be brought into the State are thieves who under the garb of politics have looted people.
Yasin Malik, Omar Abdullah, and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq can take wives from outside the State who get citizenship rights along with their children. But when Omar’s sister Sara Abdullah marries outside the State, her citizenship of J&K is usurped along with the rights of her children. Why this injustice? We say study 35-A and let’s have a debate on it.
Q: Then why didn’t Narendra Modi led government repeal it if you believe it is beneficial for common people?
A: The matter is in the Supreme Court. We are a democratic country, unlike the Taliban and Pakistan. There is a rule of law. The moment the people of Kashmir valley get to know about the reality of Article 35-A they will themselves ask for its abolition.
Q: BJP in the last election had promised citizenship of J&K to West Pakistan Refugees (WPR). But that never happened. What will BJP say to them now?
A: If a child is born in a plane flying over the airspace of USA or UK then he is deemed to be a citizen of those countries. The WPRs were settled in 1947 by NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to stop Pakistanis from infiltrating. But ironically till date, they are being denied the citizenship of the state. Those shouting that Kashmir would burn if they are given citizenship should tell everybody who settled them.
Q: WPR community leader Labha Ram Gandhi quoted Prime Minister Modi promising them citizenship after the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections. What will you say to them?
A: Article 35-A is the major hurdle in granting them citizenship. It should either be repealed or amended. Only then they would get the citizenship.
BJP has been asking for stringent action against stone pelters and even calling them over-ground workers of militants. The why did your state government release thousands of them?
Nobody wants bloodshed. We want peace and brotherhood. We want Sufi Kashmir. We don’t want the Kashmir of Mullah Omar, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. We won’t let the “terrorists” kill unarmed people like Ishrat Muneer. Army chief and BJP has warned and counselled the youth to not pelt stones during operations. They are playing with death.
Q: Is Sufi Kashmir something BJP would be offering to the people in the Valley?
A: Sufism is our heritage. Sufism is a way of life. Till Sufism was strong in Kashmir everything was peaceful.
Q: There has been a crackdown on the Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) recently. Is this the way to move toward the Sufi Kashmir which you talk about?
A: JeI is the worst thing in Kashmir. Those saying that banning it is an attack on Islam should understand that JeI is not Islam. It is an organisation which has been interpreting Islam in the wrong way. It is bringing in separatism. In Madrasas, they teach extremism to young people.
Q: But after the ban, your mainstream parties in Valley along with your former ally Sajad Lone has criticized the ban. What would say to them?
A: They should understand that JeI has got people killed in the Valley. The one lakh odd people killed in the Valley have been killed by Pakistan.
Every leader who is praising them is doing it for votes. Doesn’t Omar Abdullah know how JeI has been telling everybody that NC workers and leaders are real traitors in Kashmir.
Q: Mehbooba Mufti and BJP were all praise for each other in power but out of power both of you have been vehemently critical of the other. Is it a fixed match?
A: I don’t know what happens to Mehbooba (Mufti) ji. When she was CM listen to her speeches. In every speech, she justified the coalition and praised Modi. But now out of power, she is only thinking about how to get back that power. Today she is talking in favour of proscribed groups but can she go without security from Lal Chowk to Downtown or address a rally in Shopian or Tral. She is doing all this for her politics. If she thinks something wrong is being done then she should give up her security.
Q: Mehbooba Mufti has been blaming BJP and central government for her party’s break-up. How do you respond to that statement?
A: She says that Altaf Bukhari had gone to Nagpur to form a government on his own. But she should tell everybody whether she herself went to Nagpur to form the government in 2016. She said that BJP is trying to bring in Sajad Lone as CM but that proved to be a lie. If we had wanted to form a government then we needed just a day. She blamed us but in reality, she couldn’t handle her own party.
Q: Would BJP be repeating the same candidates for the assembly elections?
A: We have a system. BJP’s central leadership announces the tickets from New Delhi. Our office bearers from the booth level send us recommendations which I forward to the national President who then takes it to the central parliamentary committee for final decision. The mandate isn’t given by one person in BJP.
Q: Would you contest on all 87 seats in the State?
A: Yes, we will. We will win more than 44 seats this time. There would be a BJP CM and we will have MLAs from Kashmir valley as well.
Q: BJP has been critical of the dynastic parties. But you went with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and allied with Sajad Lone. Why the change of heart?
A: I don’t think Sajad Lone is a dynastic leader. And if somebody believes he is, then BJP has nothing to do with it because he has his own party. Can Ali Mohammad Sagar be the CM if NC comes to power? Can anybody apart from Mehbooba Mufti be PDP President?
For the dynastic rule to prevail the PDP brought in Tassaduq Mufti and threw out elected MLA Abdul Haq Khan from the cabinet.
Q: The return of the Kashmiri Pandits was a major poll plank of the BJP. Why didn’t that happen in your tenure?
A: Kashmiri Pandits cannot go back to the Valley until the situation is brought under control. In the first place, they ran away from firing, killings and these militant attacks. They can’t go back to this now. We cannot send them under these conditions.
Q: How would BJP better the situation in the Valley for Pandits in particular and other people in general?
A: The Kashmiri leaders are only visible on social media. They don’t meet the common people. There is a communication gap between elected representatives and common masses. That causes trouble in the Valley. We will end that gap after coming to power in the next elections. In Jammu, every party leader meets common people.
Q: Ladakh has been given divisional status. Now there are demands of similar status for Chenab valley and Pir Panjal areas. You were MLA from Pir Panjal region. Do you believe that they should be separated from Jammu division?
A: These are political stunts by Kashmiri politicians. As kids, we were taught that J&K has three regions but when we grew up we found that there were only two. Ladakh was nowhere. They don’t understand the Kashmiri language.
Creating Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley divisions is their conspiracy to weaken Jammu. Have we ever asked for creating a division for north Kashmir? We could have also spewed venom. This demand is a divide Jammu.
Q: Don’t these areas along with your constituency require a separate division for better governance?
A: We don’t require a divisional status for Pir Panjal. What we require is delimitation of assembly constituencies. Rajouri currently has four constituencies we are demanding three more and in Poonch, we are demanding three more constituencies. In Jammu, Ramban, Banihal, Doda and Kishtwar we have to increase assembly segments.
Mehbooba Mufti as CM didn’t accord Nowshera-Sunderbani- Kalakote a separate district even after we agitated for more than 50 days.
Q: Is BJP’s larger aim to trifurcate the State?
A: Trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir is a long pending issue. Ladakh has been demanding union territory status while the Valley has been demanding a separation from Jammu. But Jammu people think that leaving Kashmir alone in these tumultuous times won’t be a good move. Otherwise, Jammu has suffered because of this association.
Q: Governor Satya Pal Malik has been accused by political parties as Delhi’s agent. How do you see him?
A: He is the constitutional head and currently running the state administration as well. Only those people are accusing him who couldn’t perform and deliver during their governments. They are regretting that they couldn’t work like Governor Malik when they were chief ministers.
Q: How relevant is Congress party in Jammu region?
A: Congress’s identity has been wiped out from the entire country including J&K. They have done nothing for the State except instigating Muslims against Hindus and Sikhs.
Q: Interlocutor was appointed by your government. Is he mandated to talk to Hurriyat?
A: Hurriyat has killed innocent people. They are Pakistan’s puppet. They take money from them and buy bullets, bombs and guns for gullible Kashmiris. Their own children study outside the country. Why don’t their children do the so-called “Jihad”. Law will punish them for these acts and God will also not forgive them.
Q: Then who should the interlocutor talk with? Dialogue with whom?
A: For us, development is the only dialogue which will take place in Kashmir. Justice for all, appeasement of none.
Q: BJP had promised construction of bunkers along the International Border and Line of Control. You represented Nowshera in the last assembly which is also affected by shelling. Why didn’t you build them?
A: Rajnath Singh visited our areas and promised 20000 bunkers. All of them are being currently constructed. But due to shelling from Pakistan the work is often hampered.