Mehbooba seeks dialogue with Pakistan, stakeholders in Kashmir

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New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday advocated dialogue with Pakistan and all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir to bring the state out of the “current mess”.

She said it was more about an emotional integration of Kashmiris with India for which the idea of ‘azadi’ in Kashmir needed to be replaced with a “better idea” that will accommodate aspirations of the people of the state.

Speaking at a two-day Jammu and Kashmir Conclave-2017 organised here by Delhi-based think-tank Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), the Chief Minister lauded the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged the central government to do more for restoring peace in the state.

She said she was longing to see “the India which cries, feels the pain of Kashmir”.

“The India that embraced us on our terms. To me, India is when we go to Nizamuddin shrine and see Hindus and Muslims praying together. To me, India is statues of Hindu gods being made by Muslim artisans.”

Mufti said the government and the people of India needed to understand what Kashmiris were asking for and replace the idea of azadi “with a better idea”.

“Are we ready to do that? Or we will just depend on administrative measures or security measures to tackle the situation? We may be able to contain the situation with all these measures but I don’t think we have been able to address the real problem in the last 70 years.”

Mufti said the ruling alliance was created with a hope of reviving the magic of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had initiated talks with separatists and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir problem.

“We need to revive that. He did it in spite of Kargil, he did it in spite of the Parliament attack. We need to revive it and Pakistan has also to contribute positively.”

She admitted that there were some setbacks while dealing with Pakistan “but we cannot give up”.

“I feel Modi is the man of the moment. He has the potential to rise. He can become the man of history and his leadership is an asset which needs to be harnessed and there has to be a way to work together and take Kashmir out of the mess.”

Drawing attention to the five 2005 Working Groups constituted by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address problems of the people of the state, Mufti said the government needed not to reinvent the wheel.

“The working group reports are there but they have been consigned to dustbins.”

Asked about the recent crackdown of the National Investigation Agency against separatist leaders in the Kashmir Valley, Mehbooba said such administrative moves won’t solve the real problem.

“Whatever happened with the NIA is an administrative measure. They don’t address the real problem. The real problem is still there.”

Strongly opposing any move to change the special status of Jammu and Kashmir or revoking Article 370, Mufti, who heads a coalition with BJP — which opposes the special status accorded to the state, said there was so much of distrust between Kashmiris and India that the people of her state fear that whatever “we have that is also being snatched”.

“You are telling those who are demanding azadi that we will snatch all that you have. How will they feel? This won’t work,” she said, expressing concern over any tinkering with Article 35A of the constitution that is being debated in the Supreme Court by way of a PIL.

The act empowers the state legislature to define “permanent residents” and accord special rights and privileges to them.

“Who is doing it? Why are they doing it? …The separatists’ agenda is different and it is totally secession. But you are weakening those powers which are Indian and trust India and participate in elections (by challenging Article 35A),” she said and warned if there is an alteration in the special status of the state there could be a revolt.

Strongly defending the constitutional clause, she said any change in its status would invite repercussions and mean that nobody would be able to protect the Indian national flag in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mufti said mainstream parties like the National Conference and her own Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) risk their workers’ lives who stand up and carry the tricolour in Kashmir.

“Any tinkering with the article won’t be acceptable. I won’t hesitate in saying that nobody will even carry the corpse of the National Flag in Kashmir (if the article is scrapped). Let me make it very clear,” she said.

Mufti said that by employing such tactics “you are not targeting separatists who have an agenda to secede but you are weakening the forces who have accepted India, participated in elections”.

“They make efforts to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with India with respect and dignity. You are weakening them.”

–IANS

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