Stake holders in J&K must decide who benefits from Article 35A: Sofi YuSuf

  • UBEER NAQUSHBANDI
  • Publish Date: Apr 7 2019 4:26AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 7 2019 3:16PM
Stake holders in  J&K must decide who benefits from Article 35A: Sofi YuSufFile Photo

Ubeer Naqushbandi of Kashmir Ink caught up with the unusual politician ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Yusuf spoke in Kashmiri and Urdu 

Kashmir Ink: How did you land up in BJP?

 

Sofi Yusuf: After 1987 when National Conference and Congress resorted to rigging in the elections so that Muslim United Front (MUF) was defeated, I decided to do something for my people. It was due to this rigging that Mohammad Yusuf Shah later turned into Syed Salahuddin, though he chose a wrong path by picking up the gun. Instead, he should have fought these people (NC and Congress) through law. My purpose of joining BJP was to do social work for my people and also to escape from atrocities committed by government forces and militants during 90’s … when bloodbath started with introduction of gun in 1988. 

Pandits were made to flee. Then they made Ikhwan—National Conference and Congress - when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was Home Minister of India. Ikhwan inflicted lot of atrocities on us. On one side there were militants, while on other side there was highhandedness of Ikhwan, Army and paramilitary forces that time… This is a fact.

 

KI:  You have fought elections for both Parliament and state Assembly from 1999 right up to 2014 without a success. Do you expect any turnaround this time?

 

SY: Yes. You see earlier Congress, PDP and NC did a lot of badmouthing against BJP here. It was presented as an anti-Muslim party. Gradually, as we set our feet in the region, people saw our work. During my tenure of 23 years, I remained among the people and worked at grass root level. Every time I tried to help the people. Whatever I could do I did for my people. Gradually, people started having faith in me. I want to recall an instance from 2014 election. There was a feeling on the ground that Sofi Yusuf will win from Pahalgam Assembly segment. What NC and PDP at that point of time did was that they used local clerics of the area to spread propaganda against me. It was disseminated by these parties to the masses through clerics that Sofi Yusuf has become a Hindu, that I brought BJP here, no funeral will be offered for me and for those who would vote for me. This is the kind of propaganda they used against me. People are sentimental and listening through cleric’s mouth carries weight. Also, you have to see Modi Ji (Narendra Modi) celebrated every festival among his Kashmiri people, be it Diwali or Eid. People could understand what Modiji’s intention was behind it all… 117 schemes (Yojna) were launched in Kashmir, which were not specified for Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian… As a member of Legislative Council, I in my constituency did a lot of developmental work…There are four lakh dedicated members of our party in Kashmir. In south Kashmir in the recently held local body polls out of 15 (municipal) committees nine were formed by us. We have got 850 panchs and sarpanchs.

 

KI: Opposition parties say that you won these local body constituencies in Kashmir because they didn’t contest?

 

SY: I agree some seats went went uncontested in our kitty after boycott was announced. But some of our people contested against proxy NC and PDP candidates. I have got all reports and updates.

 

KI) How will you deal with the youth in south Kashmir, who are so alienated with your idea and are taking up arms?

 

SY: Who alienated them? I want to remind you that Mehbooba Ji has inflicted wounds on youth of south Kashmir…These are those youth who used to carry Mehboobaji on their shoulders. She got those youths killed. She got those youths arrested. She asked those youths do they go to fetch milk and toffee from army camps .… I assure you; today youth of my south Kashmir know intentions of everyone. They are an educated lot, degree holders. In Kashmir unemployed youth, who are having degrees, Sofi Yusuf will heal their wounds that have been inflicted to them by NC and PDP. I will put point of view of Kashmir across first since I am a Kashmiri myself. My Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat, I will restore it inshallah. 

 

KI: What would you tell them? Do you think these youths have taken the right decision by picking up arms?

 

SY: These youths are a part of our nation, part our Kashmiriyat. They are our children, kaleejay ke thukday (dear ones). If youth will not remain alive, what purpose will remain of our live? I appeal to them to shun the gun. Whatever decisions are to be taken, those will be taken on roundtable started by Vajpayeeji. With an initiative to start roundtable, Modiji went to Pakistan. The mission of our party is that youth are part of our nation. We want them to live safely.

 

KI: There has been a recent case of custodial death case of a teacher in the Anantnag constituency where you are going to contest. Your take on it? 

 

SY: We condemn it in strong terms. We want an enquiry into it. We have also sent a memorandum to Governor to hold an enquiry in the case. Those who are involved in it should be given stringent punishment.

 

KI) Your party was part of the government in Jammu and Kashmir. It landed majorly into controversies than doing development in the state. What do you have to say on this?

SY: We broke away from the government with Mehboobaji in the state and did not let her to have even a whiff about it, when she brought atrocities on Kashmiri youth. Rajnathji released 12500 stone throwers. Cases against them were withdrawn. Mehboobaji might remember it was Rajnathji who during a presser in 2016 handled the situation and told her that Kashmiri youth are our own following her ‘toffee and milk’ remark. 

 

KI: Recently, during an event held by your party in Srinagar, many of the participants in it hid their faces while their pictures were being taken. Does it reflect BJP still has got no acceptance among the masses here?

 

SY: My people, our sisters and daughters openly raise slogans for BJP and Sofi Yusuf and Narendra Modiji. I saw it, there were some 4 to 5 five people who hid their faces when their photographs were being taken. This is true. You have also to see the situation in Kashmir. Our two dedicated workers—one from Pulwama and another from Shopian – were killed. Our Hyder Noorani, Parliamentary candidate was also killed. There was attack on me. I was hospitalised in 1999 in which four of our people were martyred… Also agenda of NC and PDP is to harass BJP workers. Our workers are harassed in their homes. In far-flung areas BJP workers are threatened by PDP and NC people.

 

KI: Regional parties in their rallies are talking about lifting ban on organisations like Jamiat-e-Islami and JKLF, besides doing away with Public Safety Act. Do you have something like this to offer the voters?

 

SY: Voter is intelligent enough. Youth here know history of everybody…

This has to be decided by the youth. Do they want those people whose double-faced politics is getting them killed and putting gun in their hands or they want those people who want development in J&K.

 

KI) What is your position on Article 35A? Right now, there are apprehensions in the state that your party will do away with it. 

 

SY: Modiji’s government got full majority. We got our own President, Vice President, Speaker, Prime Minister and Chief Justice. Five such positions were with BJP.  If God forbid BJP had to do something with Article 35A, it would have done it. Maybe this might be in their agenda, in our agenda. But one thing we as party and Modiji said is that we don’t want to remove state’s special status, rather there should be debate over it. All stakeholders in the state must decide who gets benefitted from this special status. My sisters from Gujjar community do not even hearths to cook food on, what will they do with Article 35A? It is for those who are getting benefited out of it. I as a BJP leader, Kashmiri citizen stand with my people. I stand with my youth. I would ensure that there is no harm brought on my Kashmiriyat….

 

 

Sofi Yusuf has never won a parliamentary or state assembly election since he began standing for the Bharatiya Janata Party in J&K in 1999, three years after joining it. 


But in 2014 the former policeman became the first ever lawmaker of the saffron party from Kashmir, nominated to the upper house of the state legislature after it entered into an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party. 


The state vice-president of the BJP’s J&K unit, Sofi says since joining it 23 years ago he has strengthened the Hindu nationalist party in Muslim-majority Kashmir where he claims it has 400,000 dedicated members.


A resident of Srigufwara village of Anantnag district, Yusuf escaped a bid on his life by militants in 1999 that left him grievously wounded and four of his party men dead.