Kashmir, Pakistan used for electoral gains in India: Mehbooba Mufti
Presses for an alternative to the ‘idea of Azadi’ within framework of Indian Constitution
New Delhi, Dec 14: Kashmir and Pakistan have always been used as political weapons to secure more votes during elections in India than in the neighbouring country, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti claimed on Friday.
“Kashmir and India aren’t an issue in Pakistan during the elections. In India, unfortunately, politics is such that tougher your stance towards Pakistan and Kashmir, the more votes you are expected to get. That is the problem,” she said.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief was addressing a gathering at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai on the topic, ‘Kashmir – The Way Forward’ where she emphasised the need for dialogue and reconciliation between the two nations.
“People keep saying that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is a proxy for the Army. If he is that, it is better because the Army and he will then be on the same page. If Khan is asking for a dialogue, let’s go for reconciliation, that is better,” she said.
Hitting out at Modi-led government, she said that there is total distrust and disconnect between people of Kashmir and Delhi.
“While in crisis, they (people of Jammu and Kashmir) look inwards or outwards (outside the border) for support and towards New Delhi,” said Mehbooba.
Praising Vajpayee, Mehbooba said the people of Kashmir thought of him as a leader who cared. “Even Pakistan responded positively resulting in reduction of militancy and ceasefire,” she said, adding that the period between 2002 and 2005 when her father Mufti Sayeed was the chief minister was the “golden period of Kashmir, since for the first time the CM of Kashmir and PM of India were on the same page.”
Mehbooba said the joining of hands with the BJP after the 2014 elections was suicide. “After the 2014 elections, we joined hands with the BJP. It was suicide, but we put everything on the line because we hoped that Modi will pick up where Vajpayee-ji left. Unfortunately, Modi-ji could not rise to the occasion,” she said in her address.
“Modi had the mandate which Vajpayee did not. While forging an alliance with the BJP, we had thought if he (Modi) could solve Kashmir’s woes, we did not mind if that meant an end of PDP. We took disillusionment (of people) on us for this purpose,” Mufti said.
Asked if she would be open to an alliance with the Congress and the National Conference, she said, “We had never thought we would ally with the BJP. Now, an alliance with the Congress and NC depends on the need of the hour.”
She also said that the country cannot go back to 1947 and that there was need to find an alternative to the idea of ‘Azadi’ (freedom) of Kashmir within the framework of the Indian Constitution.
“We need to replace the idea of ‘Azadi’ with a better idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. We cannot go back to 1947, we have to move forward,” Mehbooba said.
On South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC), Mehbooba said she personally felt that SAARC countries were being held hostage to the animosity between India and Pakistan.
“For example, why can’t we have a SAARC Handicrafts University in Kashmir?” she asked, adding: “All the SAARC nations must come together and make Jammu and Kashmir a model of cooperation,” she said.
Talking over the killing of slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani and the aftermath in which nearly 100 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured, the only woman chief minister of J&K said: “As CM, I had a normal situation for just two months. Then Burhan Wani was killed and all the discourse for the rest of my term was focused on law and order.”
On the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir Valley, Mehbooba said she was brought up in a Kashmiri Pandit family and the loss of the community is loss to Kashmir.
“They were amazing teachers. Their loss is a loss to Kashmir. I pray that one day they can respectfully return to their homes,” Mehbooba said.
Taking a dig at national media, Mehbooba said being an important stakeholder it is adding fuel to the fire in case of Kashmir.
“Unfortunately, the media which is an important stakeholder in this discussion, is only adding fuel to the fire. The shaking of fists and shouting at one another is not representative of the real Kashmir. We need to change the discourse,” she said.