Shabnam Lone, a well-known Supreme Court lawyer, has always believed that Kashmir is for all Kashmiris and none can be discriminated here on the grounds of caste, creed and religion. Daughter of the late Abdul Ghani Lone, who was chief of the Peoples Conference and earlier Congress leader and state Cabinet Minister, she did her Law from Aligarh Muslim University and has since long been practising in the apex court. She spoke to R C Ganjoo in Srinagar recently and shared her perception of the current situation in J&K.
Q: How did you come into politics and then disappear from the scene after the assembly election in 2008 in which you lost?
A: I did not stumble into politics. It was a conscious decision of my own to serve the people. After my father’s assassination in 2002, people in hundreds came to me and said they wanted a proper representation of the Kupwara constituency. They had no one to speak for them. I thought their demand was genuine and joined politics. It has been a very interesting experience. I learnt a lot about our corrupt political system and electoral manoeuvring under the nose of administration --- all in the name of the national interest. In Kupwara I lost with very a narrow margin. The money power played a key role in the election. What can an ordinary person do ? I got really disturbed after watching this shadow dance of democracy and have kept myself away from politics.
Q: You belong to a prestigious family of the state and have been watching political upheavals since your childhood. Could you share with us your understanding of its political, social and economic scenario ?
A: I always believe that the Kashmir fabric is pluralist and secular. We, Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims and all, have co-existed here for generations. The valley is of Sufis and Saints, of Sharda Peeth (highest seat of learning) .... But we have lost our glorious past.
At present, there is raw anger in the youngsters about human right violation in the state. There is rampant corruption here. It has created a big chasm between the people and the government. There are a number of NGOs in the state. But they have failed to come up to the expectation of the people. The state is being generously allotted funds from Delhi. Where does the money go? So youngsters have of late picked up stones. These are the stones of anger. They have no jobs. Some people or groups may have been paid for it. But thousands of people who join them are not paid. Everybody is not paid.
The basic issue is now to be addressed. A proper dialogue among different parties is necessary. Every Kashmiri has a stake in peace and progress. Kashmir cannot remain in a political conflict for ever. Why should generation after generation suffer in Kashmir ?
Q: There are number of political voices here : independence, pro-Pakistan and autonomy. How do you view the issue ?
A : It a very difficult time for Kashmir. Everyday people are dying here. These deaths signify disaster. That has made even the most apolitical person ready to join the mob . People have a sense of insecurity. I wish all parties, the separatist as well as the mainstream, come together and let an atmosphere of peace prevail in Kashmir. Omar Abdullah blaming Mufti and the latter Omar is very ridiculous. The Hurriyat (M) - Hurriyat (G) division has not helped Kashmir. I feel that Sayed Salahuddin has more important role to play. He should be brought on to the negotiating table if the government of India is serious about negotiations
Q: Will you be in active politics again ?
A: I have a political background and the legal too. I have a literature background as well. There is not much hope from our political parties today. The Peoples Conference is divided between two brothers. Neither seems to be in touch with the common people. Everyone is telling me to float a party. You know in Kashmir every second person has floated a party. But if you get involved in any party set -up, you are in a cage and have to follow its diktats. I think it is high time in Kashmir for independent political opinions. Kashmiris today need understanding. They are to be made aware that Kashmir is the problem everybody is selling around for certain petty interests but none is doing anything meaningful in the matter. This attitude has to be changed. We are the generation next. We would not accept political models thrust upon us by New Delhi.