Politics has never been my interest. It is a means to end. While I understand that I will need to know certain things more deeply, I feel there is surely some virtue blocking out unnecessary information. In my case, I feel I only need to know as much as would enable me to do a job and keep my eyes fixed on the goal. It brings to mind the story of Mahabharata, Dronacharya and Arjun. Sometimes, all you need to know is where to strike. I feel as information gradually comes my way, I will learn in what is a very different domain for me. My natural curiosity will inform this education of sorts. But for the present time, there is chaos and certain glaring disorders. It needs attention and possibly for me to have some sense of politics. As my father used to say, “Politics is the art of the possible.” For now, I want to place my primary focus on trying to sort out the everyday life of people.
MM: Can you explain what you meant by disorder and chaos?
THM: You can see it all around. For instance, physical disorder. All of our highways are dug up all the time. People build as and where they want disregarding all bylaws, nature and common sense. We seem to be constantly digging and fixing things. It is a perpetual state of disrepair. We call it paradise on earth but if you drive to Gulmarg, a little strip of land that runs alongside the road, a precious wetland is full of dead animals, trash and filth. Look at our streams, our water bodies! Off late, I have developed a keen interest in urban design because I truly believe that a great many of our solutions will come from there. There are thinkers who have changed the course of many cities around the world for the better. It all happened when these places were at crossroads, trying to find a sensible way forward. Jan Gehl, Peñalosa, Jeff Beck, Amanda Burden… these are people who through there ingenuity have made interventions that have resulted in the improvement of quotidian lives of people all over the world. Many cities were faced with similar challenges: deciding between fly overs and walkways, between chaos and order. In Bogota, Columbia, the mayor Peñalosa was driven by one simple logic: equal public space for everyone. This has made all the difference.
Our definition of landscaping is far removed from the natural biodiversity we are blessed with. We praise the almighty for all that we have but are quick to chop down trees, pull out shrubs, tear down millions of years of natural complexity and replace it with concrete and grills. How do we expect higher thinking to flourish in such surroundings?
Our entire city is full of walls. The well off section of society locks itself in. Our own house, for instance, at Nowgam, is walled off for security reasons. There used to be a time when we had hedges and trees in between houses and neighbours feel like an extended family. It is a long long way off from where we are today but we must all strive to get there one day because it is a true measure of trust and understanding. Only when we build that trust amongst ourselves can we hope to build it with the rest of the country and across our borders. Your first conversation must be with your next door neighbour.
MM: Why did it take you a year to join the PDP?
No. I think it took me many many years to join politics. I think you are inclined to do certain things and your life guides you in certain way. My journey was different. I was never interested in politics. Instead, I was more interested in the arts; that’s where my inclinations always lay.
MM: PDP always attacked National Conference for promoting dynasty politics. Do you see the PDP is following the same trajectory?
Dynasties or no dynasties. It is democracy that rules at the end of the day.
MM: What are your priorities in Kashmir?
Health and happiness. We have got a wealth of talent but it needs to be honed. Sadly, the current mindset is such that a government job seems to be the answer to all the ills and inadequacies in our lives. That is a sad state of affairs. We need to develop skills in the true sense of the word. Set foundations that foster creativity and innovation. Our state is full of opportunities. The right set of skills amongst our young would enable them to see those possibilities. Our cities and towns are spread out. Inefficient mazes of chaos, big and small, define it. We may have to build upwards in some places to be able to create green spaces in our neighbourhoods. These changes must be driven by the needs of the common man but beyond the utilitarian and technical aspects of those structures, what should be their aesthetic? How do we move forward assimilating our age old aesthetic and years of knowledge into the new picture? How do we bring in our arts and crafts into this greater picture? How do we set our identity into a new mould? These are important questions.
MM: How do you see situation in Kashmir in the backdrop of 2016 summer protests?
We lost precious time and learning. When you take away a child’s education for such a significant period of time, it is a big loss.
MM: Do you see that the government repeated the same old methods employed in 2010 summer protests? And like it failed to handle the situation?
It is impossible for me to sit here, without access to all the information and express that the government should have done this or that. I think things can be always better handled in many ways but that is always the case when you see things from a distance. Till one does not directly encounter a situation, exchanging blows in the ring with the opponent, I think one must keep one’s views to oneself.
Germany, France all these places have suffered but at the end of day, they deal with situations with a certain level of maturity and life is quicker to return to a sense of normalcy. Those communities have not been suffering from such long spells of disillusionment and strife.
MM: But has mainstream politics created that sense of confidence in people?
Slowly and steadily, I think. You may doubt many things about our Chief Minister, but her sincerity and honesty is above doubt. I, for one, don’t doubt that she wants to make a positive change. To err is human and time is the best judge.
MM: What will be your role in the PDP?
My role will be like anyone who has joined the PDP. Find our common goals. Work towards implementing the agenda of alliance in the true sense of the word.
MM: Are you contesting for Lok Sabha seat from the Anantnag segment?
I don’t know yet.
MM: What was your reaction when you would come across news about death or pellet injury in 2016?
THM: A certain despair mixed with anger. It is unfortunate and sad. When you talk about pellet guns, each individual case has its own reality. And it is the government’s social responsibility to thoroughly investigate each and every case.
All one can say is that it should not have happened and that hopefully we can create a world where are young and old are not so disenchanted with the system that they have to come out the streets and put themselves in harm’s way in such a strong way. Hopefully, we can get rid of that anger and discontent.
MM: Opposition is blaming the PDP for paving way to the RSS and BJP into the Valley?
It is a political process, isn’t it? I cannot answer that accusation but that is what democracy is. I don’t think anyone helps anyone. I think that parties have strategies to make inroads wherever they want to, with or without the PDP.
MM: The PDP wants dialogue both internal as well as external. But Narendra Modi-led BJP does not seem interested in it?
THM: This is a process that will take time. The Prime Minister did make a surprise visit to Pakistan last year. That shows intent.