Says Army is most disciplined force
JAMMU, Nov 4: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has strongly praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying they have been very considerate and she found it much easier to talk to them even as she firmly batted for Article 370 of the Constitution of India, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was a commitment made to the State 70 years back.
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In her address at a national newspaper’s function in New Delhi last night, Mehbooba said the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, a retired Intelligence Bureau Director, as an Interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir by the Centre Government, was different from previous such attempts as he (the Interlocutor) has been given authority for the first time by conferring upon him the rank of Cabinet Secretary.
“I find it very easy to talk to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has been considerate. I found it much easier to talk to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh,” the Chief Minister said, adding that Modi has the mandate and courage to change course of the history.
She said the PDP had taken historic decision to ally with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, which was not aimed at Government formation but getting the State out of turmoil and distress.
“The Agenda of Alliance (AoA) reached between PDP and BJP has laid a roadmap for this. It was, in fact, a reach out to whole of the country given the massive mandate Modi got in the last elections,” she added.
Mehbooba had a word of praise for Army too.
“Our Army as an institution is the most disciplined force,” she said.
On special status to the State, the Chief Minister said that Article 370 of the Constitution, is the nation’s commitment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir when the Muslim majority State voluntarily acceded to an egalitarian society of the country 70 years ago.
“The commitment should be honoured,” she asserted but regretted misconception among certain sections of the country on special position. She termed Article 370 as a bridge of faith between State and rest of the country.
Though PDP has always favoured Article 370 granting special status to the State, her statement comes at a time when there has been much uproar in Jammu and Kashmir by some sections on challenging Article 35A in the Supreme Court by an NGO. The hearing of the case was recently deferred by the Supreme Court for three months.
On appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as Centre’s Special Representative on Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba asserted that appointment of Sharma was different from previous Interlocutors on the State, who had been appointed from time to time by the NDA as well as UPA Governments.
“Interlocutor has been given the post of Cabinet Secretary. He has been given the authority for the first time,” she said and hoped that the Interlocutor would take the dialogue process forward and logical conclusion.
Calling for support to the Special Representative by all agencies, she said nothing should be done which would disturb ambience of the dialogue process. She said it was more important to include all those people in the dialogue process, whose ideas about the State are different from ours. This was an indication towards the Hurriyat Conference and separatists.
On Indo-Pak relations, she said the two countries have to learn to live like good neighbours and resolve all differences through peaceful engagement and reconciliation.
However, Mehbooba said, to supplement talks in Kashmir, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) should take a backseat now.
The Centre has made it clear that there would be no let up in NIA crackdown on separatists and others, who were involved in funding terrorism and unrest in the Kashmir valley through hawala operations. In fact, just a day after the announcement of Dineshwar Sharma as the Interlocutor, the NIA had arrested son of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin.
Making fervent appeal for return of the tourists to Kashmir, Mehbooba said: “Kashmir still has a lot of Kashmiriyat. I urge people to come to Kashmir. You stopped coming to Kashmir. Don’t do that. Kashmir is still very live”.
It may be mentioned here that tourist season had been very dismal this summer in Kashmir.
The Chief Minister said Jammu and Kashmir should use its potential like hydropower.
“If we exploit such resources, we can become one of the best places in the country,” she added.
An official handout issued by the Government said: Terming dialogue as the only way to get Jammu & Kashmir out of the cycle of violence and uncertainty, Mehbooba hoped that the appointment of an Interlocutor by the Centre would help in creating a congenial atmosphere for a way forward in the State. She said exploiting the geo-strategic position of the State and opening it up to outside world would herald a new era of prosperity and growth in the region.
Participating in an interactive session-Express Adda, the Chief Minister said dialogue with all stakeholders in the State is the dire need of the hour to end bloodshed, acrimony and hatred besides heralding growth of business, trade and economy.
“For how long can we go like this?”, she asked while stressing on a sustained dialogue process to end the violence and miseries of people of the State, whom she described as the worst victims of this tragedy.
On her vision about the State, Mehbooba said she wished to make Jammu & Kashmir as the most happening place in the country with more positive actions, investment, trade and business activity.
She said the geo strategic position of the State needs to be channelized by opening all historic and trade routes of the State, thereby making it the gateway to Central Asia.
“This can really change the world for our people”, she said adding that the impact of opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road has led to demands of opening more such routes in the State like Jammu-Sialkot.
Terming the role of a section of national media as very critical in the context of the State, Mehbooba said media needs to build a positive and reconciliatory narrative on the State.
“We have many success stories among youth in the recent past to follow. They did wonders despite turmoil around but it never got the national media’s attention. Tajamul Islam, Zaira Wasim, IAS toppers, sports icons, Rhodes scholar Samir Rashid etc but they did not get as much the attention of the national media as the stuff that promotes hatred”, she said.
“Some sections of national media, unfortunately, choose people of extreme opinions which bring confrontation in the society”, she regretted while advising the national media to play a constructive, even though critical, role while discussing the State and sensitize itself about the pain, tribulations and miseries of the people of the State.
The Chief Minister said the situation in the State has improved considerably since last year and sectors like tourism and trade have started to pick up pace. She said she has directed the security establishments to prefer the return back of local militants to the social mainstream to their killing.
Replying to a question on rising incidents of intolerance and other hate crimes in the country, Mehbooba said the common citizens are as tolerant and accommodative as they used to be before.
“The DNA of this country would not change. That is why we chose to be with India which is as liberal as any other society in the world”, she said adding incidents of hate crimes bring disrepute to this tolerant ethos of the country.
On her impressions about the people of the State, the Chief Minister described them as a grateful lot.
“Even a small favour you do to them, they would acknowledge it gleefully”, she said while narrating many anecdotes from her public life of past two decades or more to drive home the point.
On the issues facing the current polity of the country, Mehbooba said that it is high time that Women’s Reservation Bill is given a proper thought by the Parliament.
She laid stress on the social empowerment of women alongside their political and economic empowerment. She said a value system to respect women needs to be inculcated among the children to put an end to atrocities on the womenfolk.
Terming youth as her passion to work for, the Chief Minister said she intends to give them a better and secure future. “I have worked with them since long. I need everybody’s help to save them from becoming victims of an uncertain situation. They are full of energy and talent and I want to channelize that for their and society’s betterment”, she added.