Srinagar: The news of his sacking came to former finance minister Haseeb Drabu from the media, “first as a speculation then as a fact”, he said on Tuesday, and added that he sticks to his statement that Kashmir “is a social issue that needs to be resolved at the level of the civil society”.
“I have no formal or even personal communication either from the government or from the party about my being dropped from the Cabinet on 12th of March. I stand informed by the media,” he said.
Giving details about the controversial speech wherein he termed Kashmir as a social issue rather than a political one, Drabu said that he was delivering a lecture that was focused on the role of civil society in resolving the issue of Kashmir.
“Speaking to a select gathering of ambassadors and industrialists, who could be possible investors in peace in J&K, I tried to make the point that Kashmir was not only a political issue to be resolved by the nation state of India and the successive governments at the centre and the state, but that there is a social issue that needs to be resolved at the level of the civil society,” he explained.
Drabu said he had made the statement in a larger context of how the Kashmir society has been ravaged and has impaired sensibilities, especially of the youth.
“As an example, relevant to the ambassadors present, I quoted the case of the travel advisories of various countries in this context, which may be politically induced but on the ground are effectively acting as a social boycott of Kashmiris. This, I said, in turn engenders a political thinking that is isolationist. The need as such is for civil society institutions to get involved and make interventions in their areas of influence to resolve the social issues pervading our society,” he said.
“There have been innuendos that I said this or was made to say this with an ulterior motive. The fact is that it is a long-held belief and I have repeatedly said that the engagement with Kashmir should be at various levels. When I was the Chairman of the J&K Bank, I used to lament the fact that while as around 40% of shareholding of the bank was with Foreign Institutional Investors, not a single Indian Institution was invested with the bank,” he said.
He said he had delivered a lecture on similar lines on 14th June 2014.
Defending his speech, Drabu said, “To the best of my understanding and knowledge, this in no way goes against the articulated and stated political position of PDP. Nor does it dent its image. It is, in fact, very much a part of the PDP’s political philosophy and agenda of reconciliation.”
Giving a sequence of events which led to his sacking as finance minister, Drabu stated that after his speech on March 11, he saw a press statement of the PDP Vice President, Sartaj Madni, asserting that resolution of the political problem of J&K is the core agenda of the PDP and asking Drabu to retract the statement he reportedly made in Delhi.
“By evening, a letter from Mr AR Veeri, Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, was delivered at my residence. It asked me to explain my statement which ‘has caused a serious dent to the image of the party’. I called Veeri saab but he was probably unable to take my call. He later called back as I saw a missed call from his number,” Drabu said.
Subsequently, Drabu said, he spoke to Veeri the next morning. Veeri suggested that Drabu should talk to the chief minister and party president Mehbooba Mufti.
“I called the CM residence in New Delhi and was told that the CM was busy and would call me back in 10 minutes. That call never came. By early afternoon I called up the CM residence and sought an appointment. Even as I was waiting for it, it was reported on the website of the daily, Greater Kashmir, that the CM had decided to drop me from the council of ministers and had written to the Governor to this effect. I finally got a call to meet the CM at 7.15pm,” he said.
“The decision to drop me did come as a surprise but what was shocking was the manner and method of communicating it. While I understand and accept the decision of the party, to talk to media before talking to me was painful. I was not accorded the opportunity to explain the context and the content of my speech,” he added.
Drabu said despite the sacking he was grateful to “Mufti sahib and Mehbooba ji to have been given the opportunity to contribute in whatever small way I could in accomplishing the party patron’s vision of addressing the distressing situation in and around Jammu and Kashmir.”
He stated that his association with PDP dates to the time when he wasn’t even formally into politics. “The rapport I enjoyed with its late founder and patron is something that I would cherish all my life,” Drabu said.
Speaking of how he cobbled the alliance with the BJP, Drabu said that the late Mufti Sayed tasked him with negotiating with the BJP and made him the pointsman for the alliance.
“Every single meeting, discussion and negotiations were done with the knowledge and consent of the patron and the president,” he stated.
“I must thank Mehbooba ji for reposing trust in me which helped this government to set off so many pioneering initiatives in the specific area of public expenditure management and generally in the fronts of economic development. I bear no ill will against anyone. That’s simply not my way of being,” he said.