PDP's Srinagar candidate: 'This election is not about NC and PDP… The real challenge, whether they win or lose, will be the continuation of BJP's policies'. Political Plus News

Waheedur Rehman Para, 36, president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) youth wing, is the party's candidate for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which goes to polls on May 13. They are against the National Conference (NC).' s Agha Ruhollah Mehdi and Muhammad Ashraf Mir of his party. In an interview with Indian Express, they talk about why this election is different and how it can help break the “silence” in the valley. Quotes:

For the last five or six years there has been a feeling of total suffocation. Thinking has been done and people are being questioned on small issues. Pastors are silent, bars are silent, workers are silent, journalists are not reporting what is happening on the ground. Political parties have been selectively accommodated and some have been selectively removed from the political space. PDP has suffered the most in the last five years. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been slapped against anyone who is speaking out.

More than political empowerment, the first thing we need is our voice. We need to reclaim agency to feel, speak and breathe freely. It's an opportunity for us to reconnect with people and heal them, and heal ourselves in the process because there's so much trauma caused by suffocation caused by invisible fear.

You had contested the district development council election only. What is your motivation behind jumping in the Lok Sabha polls?

One is to have the opportunity to reach out to people, and the other is to come out of trauma, stress and fear, first of all by yourself. Due to detention, prison and torture, I have been under constant psychological stress. I think it is an opportunity to forget these things and move on.

Waheed Pera Waheed Para in a road show as part of his Lok Sabha campaign. (Express)

My candidacy is a message to the youth that a common man can contest parliamentary elections with PDP and if they even level charges of terrorism and UAPA against you, we will turn those things into merit. .

A festive offering

He was expected to face NC's Omar Abdullah, who chose to contest from Baramulla. Do you think it will have an effect?

I don't know why he shifted, but it doesn't matter much to us. His is a party that has not weakened and PDP is facing the worst attack but (public) sentiment resonates more with PDP than any other party.

PDP's campaign revolves around special status, identity, land and job security. How are you going to convince voters that you will deliver on these promises?

We want to reclaim our voice, reclaim a space for dialogue and reclaim hope. The moment you reclaim your voice, you are able to articulate your feelings. Then people can talk about Article 370, statehood, elections, autonomy, self-rule, anything. Now it is more important that this whole cycle of suffocation ends.

If you are reporting on us today, it is also an opportunity provided by these elections. Otherwise there was no space available for these dialogues. I think we should be optimistic and not pessimistic that nothing good can happen here. We need to stay positive and see what results will come from the centre.

You are part of the India Bloc and also an ally of the NC in the People's Alliance for Gapkar Declaration (PAGD). You said that you made sacrifices to maintain unity but the NC broke it by deciding to contest on all three seats in Kashmir. You wanted the Anantnag seat but people are asking why not this seat after you sacrificed so much?

We would have done the sacrifice easily but we should have been invited to the sacrifice. The worst part was that NC said (we) are irrelevant and it doesn't matter. Otherwise we were ready to give all three seats. In our political affairs committee, (party chief Mehbooba Mufti) openly said that she does not want to fight and give us all three seats to NC if they call for her. But that call never came.

NC has called you 'C Team' of BJP. Your party leader is avoiding directly targeting his opponents. Why?

This is not going well with people. People want solidarity with each other. This election is not about NC and PDP. It is more about what is happening to people and where the real challenge is not NC. The real challenge, if they win or lose, is the BJP's policies.

The biggest criticism against the PDP is that it sought votes to keep the BJP out in the 2014 assembly elections but then allied with it to form a coalition government. How do you convince voters that this won't happen again?

Even if we had an alliance with (BJP), it was for the people of Kashmir, not against. We created an agenda of unity, which talked about a broader political process, reconciliation, inter-Kashmir dialogue and a democratic solution to Kashmir. We did not do this for the government or the Chief Minister. It was also for survival.

The real objective for us now is to regain what we have lost and PDP is the only party that has been telling the ground realities. (The mufti) was attacked, his house was taken, his passport was taken, his mother was questioned, his father's grave was searched. So people understand what is happening to one party, one family is being targeted after the abrogation of Article 370, and other parties are saved or created.

What is your biggest fear and challenge?

I am still afraid that they can detain you anytime. So we have to be very careful, very careful about every word. This is a huge risk as past experiences have given you an idea.

The challenge is that we are an attacking party and our workers are being harassed every day. Wherever we have meetings, they profile all the people. There are government proxies who go to Delhi and mislead them about us. They are lobbying to arrest me again.

What is your greatest strength?

I think that is the position of Mehbooba Muftiji. It actually has a ripple effect on Earth. And my strength, in many ways, is also youth. I think the whole experience of going to prison has also brought me closer to people.

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