‘We Aren’t Seeking Aazadi…’ Sajad Lone Says New Alliance Ready for Talks But Not at Cost of J&K’s Dignity

Srinagar: In his first interview since the central government piloted constitutional change in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, former J&K minister Sajjad Lone said the new Kashmir alliance was not averse to talking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top government functionaries if they listened to the sentiment on ground.

“We don’t have contempt for the high offices of the country. We have full respect for them. There should be no problem in talking, but in our humble way we will have to ensure there is no compromise to the dignity of people of Jammu and Kashmir. I think Delhi should talk to people since it took people’s rights away,” Lone told News 18 when asked if the new alliance will like to engage with PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

“They took the decision (referring to August 5, 2019) and they should engage…if not with us then the people. And enquire from them why there is so much anger and bitterness. The ball is in their court,” Lone said, refusing to be drawn into detail over the issue.

The chairman of People’s Conference is considered to be an architect of the new alliance that was launched by veteran politician Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday. Six mainstream parties have come together to fight for restoration of special constitutional position that was taken away last year when Parliament struck down the contentious Article 370 that gave residents of the Jammu and Kashmir exclusive rights on jobs, education and land. Named People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — a grouping of different parties who had vowed to safeguard J&K’s special laws as enshrined in constitution last year — it will soon assign roles and agenda for effective functioning.

“Our motive is to get back what was taken away from us forcibly, illegally and unconstitutionally and what rightfully belongs to us,” said Lone, who was incarcerated for months before being released.

“We aren’t seeking aazadi…all we are demanding is strictly within the constitution. We had said it before August 5, 2019 and we are saying it now. There is no change,” he said.

On Wednesday, Farooq Abdullah sought resolution of Kashmir issue through dialogue by inviting all the stakeholders ostensibly India, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Asked about BJP government’s repeated claim that there was no going back on Article 370, Lone said he does not believe everything is cast in stone. “People are entitled to opinions, there is one in Srinagar and another in Delhi, but the world is dynamic. It keeps on evolving. Nothing remains static.”

He said in the coming days, the alliance will reach out to leaders in Ladakh and Jammu to take their views on the issue. ”I am sure all shades of opinions would be accommodated. The collective mechanism of the alliance will ensure we are inclusive and holistic in approach,” he added.

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