How do you view the Government's claim that the Kashmir situation has returned to normal?
No doubt, the situation is somewhat better than what it was earlier. Militancy has been contained to an extent. But to suggest that all is quiet now or that the situation has become normal, is wrong. The issue is still alive. The overall situation cannot be taken as conducive enough to revive the traditional political process.
What do you think should be done to bring back normalcy in Kashmir?
If Delhi is sincere about winning the hearts of the people and takes concrete steps in that direction, then the political process can definitely be restored in Kashmir. But if they think they can bring back normalcy by using force, they are wrong. Unless you understand the genuine aspirations of the people from all the three regions, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and unless you do something to satisfy them, nothing can be achieved.
How did the Prime Minister respond to your demand for restoring the state's autonomy the last time you met him?
My proposals were well taken. The Prime Minister went on record saying that the sky was the limit and told Parliament that the Centre was prepared to grant everything to Kashmir, short of azadi. But no step has been taken to fulfil that promise. Merely talking about autonomy is not enough, you have to do something in practice.
Will you participate in the State Assembly elections?
No, not at all. I stand by my earlier commitment that unless the Centre grants total autonomy to Kashmir, and unless the constitutional status of the state, as it stood in 1952, is completely restored, I and the National Conference will not take part in the elections. I cannot go to the people empty-handed. After all, 40,000 people have been killed in the last five years. I should have something better to offer them. Farooq Abdullah will never sell the honour of his people.
Do you think the Government is in a position to offer greater autonomy to Kashmir?
Enough time has been lost already. And we are left with hardly any time now. The Rao Ministry has only a few more months left and will be facing the electorate shortly. There are very little chances that he will take any decision on the autonomy issue. I was very optimistic earlier that Delhi will do something about it. I am fast moving towards pessimism. And if they (Delhi) think that they will still hold elections, form a government, then let me tell you "woh sarkar yahan chalney wali nahin" (such a government will not last here).