Mehbooba Mufti is the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party and the last chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. She is also the vice-chair of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, comprised of several regional parties focussed on the restoration of the former state’s constitutional safeguards, such as Article 370 and Article 35(A) of the Constitution. On 5 August 2019, the day the union government read down Article 370, Mufti was detained and placed under house arrest, without any charges, for over six months. In February 2020, she was further detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. Mufti was finally released on 13 October 2020, after the Supreme Court’s intervention. Since then, she has been at loggerheads with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, her former ally. On 9 February 2023, the Delhi Police briefly detained her in the national capital during a protest against the J&K administration’s anti-encroachment drive, which has led to large-scale demolitions.
“Why do I have to protest in Delhi? Only because I cannot even think of protesting in Kashmir,” Mufti told Shahid Tantray, a multimedia reporter at The Caravan, during an interview on 10 February. “Since they are in power, they want to bulldozer everything, weaponise the majority they hold in parliament, weaponise the agencies and weaponise the Constitution.” Mufti spoke about J&K’s history, politics, the people’s aspirations, the Kashmir issue and the way forward, among other things.
Shahid Tantray: How do you see the current situation in Kashmir?
Mehbooba Mufti: The situation has severely deteriorated after 2019—the way Kashmir was treated, the special status scrapped and various laws imposed, and our land, jobs, minerals and resources were outsourced. They have now reached our homes. Earlier, Kashmiris were called terrorists, then drug addicts and, now, they are encroachers. Everyone who lives in J&K is not a citizen but an encroacher. Because of the laws that existed before 2019, we had been able to build our homes. The rich might go to court, but everyone knows how justice is served in the courts. Even the chief justice of India said that lower courts are frightened—they don’t even give bail, et cetera—but at least the rich have an alternative. The targeting of those who don’t possess anything except a roof over their heads has led to extreme panic and terror among the citizens.
Tantray: Do you think that there have been attempts to dissolve the Kashmiri identity since 2019? Do you think that Kashmiri Muslims are being told that they do not have a future here?
Mufti: There is a word, they want to “unpeople” J&K. They want to diminish the identity of the people of J&K, be they Muslim, Dogra or Ladakhi. They have a goal: one nation, one religion and one language. They want to embark on implementing this goal starting from J&K. They want to change the demographics of J&K. That’s why they outsource our land, contracts and jobs. They want an influx of people from outside J&K. Hundreds of thousands of people from outside J&K have been included in the voters’ list, so that the ratio of minority and majority changes completely.
Tantray: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue MS Golwalkar wrote that Muslims, Christians and communists are a threat to the Hindu nation. Do you think that the current BJP government works as per the RSS’s ideology, or is it different?
Mufti: Absolutely. This government is not working as per the Constitution, no matter how much they say so—they wouldn’t have unconstitutionally ended the special status of Kashmir if they did. They clearly have an agenda. You can call it Godse’s or Savarkar’s. [Nathuram Godse assassinated Mohandas Gandhi in 1948. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and is credited with developing the political ideology of Hindutva.] It is the Hindu Mahasabha’s agenda: India should be a Hindu nation.