Interview: Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami: Threads of resistance are available

Print edition : January 03, 2020

CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami. Photo: Kamal Kishore/PTI

Interview with CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami.

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and four-time legislator from Kulgam in South Kashmir, has been under virtual house arrest in Srinagar though the administration claims otherwise. During his recent visit in New Delhi, he talked to Frontline exclusively and shared his experiences post the August 5 action of the Government that had the Kashmir valley locked down. While exposing the Government’s fascist agendas, he underlined that there is hope for a sustained resistance. Excerpts from the interview.

What are your views on the Citizenship Amendment Bill and its possible implications?

This is the saddest day in the history of modern India. My appeal to India is to not tread the lines Pakistan did, by recognising religion as the basis of nationhood. History is replete with examples that tell us religion cannot be the basis of a nation. Pakistan that got dismembered is 1971 is one such example.

Kashmir’s accession to India happened in very special circumstances. Kashmir’s decision to not consider religious affiliation and opt for a secular India was her tribute to the ethos of India and India’s belief in tolerance and equality. At a time when there was a blood bath at the borders over the two nation theory, Kashmir saw its future in India which guaranteed equal rights irrespective of faith, colour, background.

Our collective resolve should be to work for that India that is liveable for all of us.

I am worried at the moment that the current development [CAB] gives a reason to those on the other side of the border to be quite happy, as they watch that what was rejected by Kashmir [religion as the basis of nationhood] is being discussed and debated on the floor of the Indian Parliament. One must be very clear of what the BJP-RSS’s Hindu Rashtra represent. It is not just about majoritarianism but openly a fascist model to create conditions for the upper caste Hindus to dominate all others.

2. Is a sustained resistance possible against the Government’s sweeping, unilateral decisions and its Hindutva project, given that it has brute majority in Parliament?

There are now two tendencies emerging. There are people who say this is a hopeless situation and of-course one also sees vacillation on the position of the parties that claim to advocate liberalism but my opinion is that despite the RSS projects unfolding, like the virtual two nation project that was tabled in Parliament, there is a hope. See for example in Maharashtra, the commercial capital of India, they did the unthinkable by carrying out a midnight Government formation exercise which really betrayed their desperation. But even with that desperation they could not achieve what they had set out for. This may be a transitional thaw, but there is a resistance.

Even with CAB, we were not expecting so much of support coming in to us, in opposition to the Bill. Earlier, in the case of abolition of Article 370 or the triple talaq bill, there was vacillation on part of the Opposition. But this time more resistance is visible and that is reassuring. Though we know the numbers, such determined opposition of the Government’s Hindutva agenda rescues from a situation where the battle seemed to have been lost and these powers came across as invincible. Even the general mood in the people is that they are talking rather than endorse the Government wholly. There are columns here, there and somewhere denouncing the Government. Even in the corporate sector, some signs of discontent and questioning of the Government’s positions seem to be generating. So, the threads of resistance are available. But a lot of mobilisation is required and that has to be done not only in the political level, but cultural and social levels as well.

3. Over four months have passed since the abrogation of Article 370. How do you look back at the August 5 action of the Government?

On the 5th of August not only the very foundation of the Constitution was shattered but also my state was divided arbitrarily. Ladhak that had been integral to all of us and had contributed significantly to the state was separated from us without any effort to determine the wishes of the people. What shocks and dismays us the most is the fact that not only the Government ignored us, we did not get the required solidarity from the Indian civil society, political parties and the media at large.

4. Are things normal in Kashmir now as the Government claims?

How can there be normalcy from the barrel of the gun? That is an enforced silence, certainly not normalcy. While trying to justify its normalcy narrative, the Government comes up with the absurd argument that no one died in firing by the security forces post August 5. If nobody dying in clashes justifies unilateral actions, then let there be an internet suspension and imposition of Section 144 across the country. Let that too be justified with the same argument that no one is dying.

It must be emphasised here that though Jammu and Kashmir’s Constitution now stands abolished, why are provisions of Indian Constitution also being withheld? The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom and protection of civil liberties? Why these guarantees are not applicable on us? Today, the Government is doing this in Kashmir, tomorrow it will be done somewhere else. We must put up resistance to this before it is too late.

5. The Government continues to justify the abolition of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status saying it hindered development. Your comments.

The Government’s claims of developing and modernising Kashmir are outrageous. It has suspended basic communication and Internet facilities, barring postpaid mobile phones and landline phones. Is this the way to modernise? Students are neither able to attend schools or colleges nor are they able to fill the forms for competitive exams such as NEET. How can you advance a generation while ruining its career and prospects for future? Access to the Internet as per a ruling of the Kerala High Court is a fundamental right. Our basic rights have been denied. This Government is pushing us into darkness.

The horticulture industry has suffered massive losses. No minister from the Centre came to take stock of the situation, even though this Government professes concern for Kashmir’s economy.

The media is working under the most difficult conditions due to the Internet ban. They have been provided with a media facilitation centre with a few computers that have to be shared by scores of scribes. This Government claims that media is functioning, but important is to note that the newspapers have been squeezed to a few pages because of the prevailing odds.


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