Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Friday that resolution of the crisis in Kashmir is a challenge before the entire country, not of Kashmir alone.
Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Kashmir – Changing The Discourse’ during the relaunch of Frontline magazine, a sister publication of The Hindu, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader said that while polls in Kashmir are important, more urgent is the restoration of basic democratic rights of the people there.
“Several Kashmiri youth were taken away and put in jails outside Kashmir [in 2019]. Their families are so poor that they are not able to meet them, let alone fight these cases in court. Journalists have been arrested… Before elections, democratic rights should be restored,” she said during the discussion moderated by Frontline Editor Vaishna Roy.
While stating that ensuring the restoration is the joint responsibility of the Opposition parties, Ms. Mufti took potshots at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for raising a hue and cry over the Centre’s Ordinance on appointing and transferring of bureaucrats in Delhi while supporting the Centre’s 2019 decision to strip J&K of its special status.
The PDP chief said normalcy was not the norm in the region. “Some 21 days before G-20, hundreds of youth were put in detention centres, many houses on the road to the airport were taken over by security forces. They couldn’t manage one G-20 meeting in Leh. Militancy would not have spilled over to Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu if things were normal,” she said.
Charging the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with treating Kashmir like a milch cow, the PDP chief said her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had put everything at stake to align with the BJP and form a government in J&K in 2015.
“He could have become the CM with Congress’ help, but he wanted to engage with the BJP. He wanted political dialogue with the new BJP, he knew [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is going to stay here for long,” Ms. Mufti said.
Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief A.S Dulat, another panellist, said the muscular policy in J&K has succeeded to an extent as law and order is under control and “our boys are not joining militancy”.
He added that Kashmir was a political issue. “It was a smart move to set up the PAGD (People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration). It will be a sad moment if PDP and National Conference (NC) go their own ways. If elections happen today, NC and PDP will form the government. But Mehbooba hasn’t responded to my suggestion,” Mr. Dulat said.
He said in the present scenario, if anyone understands Kashmir it is National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and if he is given a free reign then things could move forward.
Former Rajya Sabha member Pavan K. Varma said Article 370 was a temporary provision in the Constitution and the issue is “done and dusted” now.
N. Ram, Director, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, said Kashmir was robbed of Statehood and there were no signs of elections.
“I am often asked about the Emergency. What has happened in the former State of J&K is total tyranny. Predominantly Muslim journalists and those who speak for fairness were targeted,” he said.
Mr. Ram said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court as it was yet to hear petitions that have challenged dilution of Article 370. “Why have they not given it a priority? Why has the SC not rendered justice? People must speak up, I don’t think J&K has enough support and solidarity from the rest of India,” Mr. Ram said.