Won’t contest elections till Art 370 restored: Mehbooba

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar, Mar 22: People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief and former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti today said that she won’t contest Assembly election till Article 370 is restored.
“I am never going to fight Assembly elections as long as Article 370 is restored. It’s more of an emotional issue for me,” the former Chief Minister said.
“Whenever I took an oath, it was under two Constitutions- the Constitution of India and the Constitution of J&K – with two flags at the same time. It’s more of an emotional issue for me,” she said.
Mehbooba welcomed the opening of the Sharda Devi Temple near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district.
The former Chief Minister hoped for resumption of cross-LoC trade. “This is very good. We have always been saying that we need to engage, reconcile and resolve things. The opening of Sharda temple is a very good thing. It is something that the Kashmiri Pandits were looking forward to, they really wanted it to be opened,” she added.
The PDP chief hoped that the opening of the temple will not be restricted to pilgrimage, but “it will go beyond that”. “I also hope that the business which was conducted on Muzaffarabad Road and Rawalakot road, that also is resumed,” she said.
Mehbooba accused Government of harassing small time businessmen and contractors by blocklisting them.
“On the one hand, Mehul Choksi, who has fled with thousands of crores, has had the red alert notice issued in his name withdrawn by the CBI, and the issue of Adani, who has allegedly acquired thousands of crores, also remains unresolved. On the other hand, small-time businessmen in Jammu and Kashmir, including contractors, are facing harassment and blacklisting. The question arises, what is the Government trying to achieve in Jammu and Kashmir with such actions,” she said.
“The Government is investigating people who have left the military and entered civilian life or whose distant relatives may have once been involved in the military with the help of the Criminal Investigation Department. On one side, you have roped in blacklisted companies like APTECH, while on the other hand have made it difficult for people to earn a living. They have made it sinful to work here. Additionally, they have blacklisted 300–350 contractors today whose distant relatives formerly joined militancy. People with distant relatives who are no longer alive but were once militants are being blacklisted,” she said.
Mehbooba said the approach adopted by the Government seems to be pushing those who have left militancy and joined the mainstream to the wall and may even lead to bloodshed. “The government should not be punishing those who have chosen to abandon militancy and contribute to society. The contractors who completed work prior to 2018 are still waiting to be paid, despite the fact that there was an elected government in place at the time. It is important for the administration to address these injustices and provide support to those who have left militancy and joined the mainstream, as well as to ensure that contractors are paid for their work in a timely manner,” she said.
She accused Government of supporting and backing the fraudulent people. “On one hand, there is a conman named Kiren Patel who has received full protocol and Z plus security, with police and other security officials at their back. They have created numerous other individuals like him who have amassed a great deal of wealth, and people are too afraid to demand their money back for fear of being jailed,” she said.
“The Government is well aware of these individuals, yet continues to support them. They have made life increasingly difficult for locals and journalists, preventing them from working. It is important for the Government to take action against these individuals and provide support to those who have been harmed by their actions, including locals and journalists”, she said.