Saturday, August 17, 2002

If necessary, I will join politics: Khalida

Khalida ShahKHALIDA SHAH, the eldest child in the Sheikh family, was the apple of her father late Sheikh Abdullahís eye. Though she was barely 13 when she was married to G.M. Shah in 1948, she remained in constant touch with Kashmir politics. She used to visit jails to look after her fatherís party workers and their family members when both her father and her husband were lodged in jail in 1953 for several years. She stood behind the National Conference like a rock and earned the respect of the masses and the workers. At that time, her brother Dr Farooq Abdullah was in London.

She had the opportunity to attend the meetings with Mahatma Gandhi and Lady Mountbatten when they visited Kashmir.

She plunged into politics in 1983 after the death of her father when the National Conference was being split following political differences with her brother, Dr Farooq Abdullah. Her husband, G.M. Shah, formed the National Conference (Khalida). It was converted into Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference in 1988 headed her husband G.M. Shah. At 68, Khalida is well- maintained person with a radiant look but her heart is filled with sorrow because of the prolonged militancy in the state. Breaking her silence after 16 years, she spoke to R.C. Ganjoo in Delhi. Excerpts:


Why did you join politics in 1984, and not in your fatherís lifetime?

My father never forced me to join politics. But I was intensely involved in politics along with my mother when my father and my husband were in jail. In fact, in 1983, there was tremendous pressure from different quarters that if I do not come into politics the National Conference will lose its image. I joined politics to preserve the heritage of the real National Conference. I feel we should not scratch the wounds as it is of no use. A plan was being hatched at that time to finish the NC. It was being felt that the National Conference under me (Khalida) could save the ideology of the real National Conference. Thus, we formed the government. I used to take care of the public, whereas my husband, G.M. Shah, as Chief Minister used to run the administration.

How do you describe the present situation in Kashmir.

We Kashmiris are basically peace-loving people. Some vested interests within the country and outside never wanted Kashmir to flourish. Kashmir was becoming prosperous economically, socially and politically day by day. It was beyond the tolerance of some evil forces and trouble was fomented. J&K is really in a bad shape today.

In your opinion what steps are required to save Kashmir?

My view is that if all Kashmiris come together crossing their party and ideological lines, they can save J&K. The situation is alarming and if we do not unite to solve the problem it would affect the nation as well. The time of blowing our own trumpet is gone. Evil forces want to divide the state, divide the family, society and communities. It is a very meticulous plan. They succeeded at one point of time but wonít succeed again and again. We Kashmiris ought to be trusted since we have joined the Indian domain. I am sorry to say that we were never trusted. If Kashmiris are trusted things will change automatically. Mistrust is the main reason behind the problems in Kashmir.

Do you think that the National Conference led by Dr Farooq Abdullah and J&K Awami National Conference headed by G.M. Shah should sink their differences and fight the forthcoming elections together?

Kashmir politics is tricky and it is at a very crucial point. At this moment it is not possible for me to form any opinion. We have to think over it. It is an admitted fact that unity means strength and it will be beneficial for the state.

G.M. Shah has said his patch up with Dr Farooq is just a social patch up not a political one.

I canít comment on it.

How do you compare G.M. Shahís rule with Dr Farooq Abdullahís regime?

G.M. Shah is an able and strict administrator. He is known for his integrity and sincerity. But he was not allowed to function. While toppling my husbandís government in 1986, these vested interest played a dirty role. As far as Dr Farooq Abdullah is concerned, he has never been allowed to function smoothly. He is not a super human being, and to err is human. A person who is supporting the Government of India in such a hostile atmosphere should, at the very least, be trusted. But he is not being trusted. I remember that a number of times hurdles were created for my father, Sheikh Abdullah.

You remained silent for over 16 years. Do you wish to join active politics again?

If necessary, I would certainly re-enter politics. I have no plans to do so right now.