'Kashmiri Voice Needs A Political Representative'

27 November 2008
The Times of India

New Delhi: Shabnam Lone, daughter of the late Abdul Gani Lone, a leader of the Hurriyat and People's Conference, is contesting the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections from Kupwara as an independent candidate. Shabnam, a lawyer at the Supreme Court and Srinagar high court, spoke to Ashima Kaul: Your brothers Sajjad and Bilal Lone are supporting the boycott call. What prompted you to contest the elections? People from remote villages in Kupwara had been coming to me for the last two years to fill in the political vacuum created by my father's death in 2002. I was overwhelmed by the love, trust and strength the supporters of my father provided me, which compelled me to take this decision. It is they, the people of Kupwara, who urged me to file the nomination papers. I could not turn my back to them. This is a personal journey for me to get justice for them. How do you see the boycott call given by the separatists? I have nothing to say about it. My submission is Kashmir is an issue and it has to be resolved through a process of dialogue according to the wishes of India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. Elections are not the solution to the Kashmir issue. However, there are other human issues that can only be resolved through a democratic political process which gives people a chance to cast their ballot, elect their democratic representative to voice their problems. We will support whatever political formation unfolds out of it. If elections are not the solution to Kashmir issue, why are people asking you to contest? Kashmir is a political problem and it should be resolved politically. But there are other issues connected with the lives of the people. People have been denied their fundamental rights. There is poverty and unemployment in villages. People have lost their loved ones. There is discrimination against families whose male members had become militants. For these strife-torn families there is no rehabilitation. These are human issues and the real face of Kashmir. People know and understand these things. They know that their voice needs a political expression and a political representative. How do you intend to address these issues? Is there a road map? Infrastructure development has to be advanced. There is a need to include vulnerable groups like unemployed youth and women in policy planning. Why should our youth go to Punjab for jobs? Jobs have to be created within the state for which policies and programmes have to be made and resources found. I will also look into various schemes in sectors such as education, health, water supply, roads and bridges for which we know a lot of funds have come but nothing has been done on the ground. We will file mass class action suits if need be to ensure implementation of centrally-funded schemes.