ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: In controversial comments, former Pakistani envoy to India Abdul Basit has revealed that he got prominent socialite-columnist Shobhaa De to advocate for plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir after the 2016 killing of militant Burhan Wani when the Valley was in turmoil.
De angrily refuted the claims, saying she had not even met Basit before January this year, and that too, when he sought a private discussion at the Jaipur Litfest, but was snubbed.
In an interview with a Pakistani blogger, Farhan Virk, who calls himself a part of ‘Team IK’ (Team Imran Khan), the former Pakistani High Commissioner to India says: “We have seen how after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, the way pellet guns were used, and Kashmir was placed under an economic blockade, Kashmir’s economy was destroyed… And there was no one in mainland India who would speak about it.
“It was a challenge for me to convince any journalist to please write an article in the newspaper for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. I finally found a lady journalist, Shobhaa De, who is very prominent. She wrote an article. I met her and made her understand. She wrote at the end of her article, ‘Now the time has come to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all through a plebiscite’.”
The article Basit was referring to was written by De on July 17, 2016. It is titled ‘Burhan Wani is dead but he’ll live on till we find out what Kashmir really wants’.
She writes in the end: “Kashmir is a love story. A dream. A fantasy. Kashmir is a poem… an elegy. Why shatter its pristine beauty with ugly politics? Why not display enough moral courage, and talk? Let sane voices prevail over lethal bullets. Tough. But not impossible. Let’s see if the present government has the guts to go ahead with a referendum to resolve the Kashmir crisis once and for all. Let’s end the lingering pain in the region and allow Kashmiris to live in peace, with the dignity and harmony they are entitled to.”
Responding to Basit, De said that he was “a despicable man making up a story not only to discredit her but India” and that she would not even responded to such claims but for the fact that it “was important to nail lies”.
Recounting the circumstances of his attempt to meet her, she said that he tried to join a group at a private party at the literature festival, but was snubbed and had to leave in “about three minutes”.
Stressing that she was a “proud and patriotic Indian”, she said she had to speak out because the claim was “dangerous, malicious, and unfair to truth”.
Basit’s comments came in the wake of Pakistan’s agitation over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and dividing the state into two union territories – J&K and Ladakh. Pakistan has termed it an act of “annexation” and taken unilateral measures against India, including expelling the Indian envoy, suspending bilateral trade and permanently suspending two cross-border train services and one bus service.