Won’t contest assembly elections till Article 370 is restored: Mufti
Srinagar: PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday vowed not to contest assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir till Article 370 is restored, saying it might be a “foolish” decision, but the issue is an “emotional” one for her.
In an interview with PTI here, the former chief minister also said that assembly elections are not happening in the Union Territory as the Centre is “scared” that if there is an elected government, then it will not be able to pursue its “hidden agenda”.
The Centre in 2019 had abrogated Article 370, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and divided it into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.
“I am never going to participate in assembly elections as long as Article 370 is not restored. Whenever I took oath as a member of the assembly, it was under two Constitutions — the J&K Constitution and the Constitution of India, with two flags at the same time. Maybe it is foolish on my part, but it is more of an emotional issue for me,” she said.
Mufti was referring to the separate Constitution and the flag that Jammu and Kashmir had under its special status.
On whether she would contest parliamentary elections, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president said she was not sure.”Parliament (elections), I do not know,” she added.
Asked whether the parties in the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam seeking the restoration of Article 370, would contest the assembly elections as an alliance, she said it was too early to say that.
“We have never really discussed whether we are going to contest elections together or separately. Unless and until we sit together… only then we can talk about it,” she said.
On the central government’s claims of restoration of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti asked if panchayat polls are the real test of democracy, why does the country have the posts of prime minister and home minister.
“They are talking about panchayat elections. This is not the first time that these elections have been held. They have been conducted from the time of (National Conference founder) Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. If panchayat is the real test of democracy, what are the prime minister and home minister doing? Panchayat cannot be a substitute to the assembly,” she said.
Asked about assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir not being conducted, the PDP chief said the Centre is “scared” that if there is an elected government, then it will not be able to pursue its “hidden agenda”.
“What are they scared of, I do not know. The firmans (orders) that they are issuing every week which further dispossesses and disempowers the people of J&K, they want to continue with that,” Mufti said.
“They are scared that if there is an elected government, then they will not be able to pursue their hidden agenda, which is no longer hidden. They may not be able to do what they are doing at this point of time,” she said.
“They are criminalising everything”, she alleged and added that “I would say they have even criminalised recruitment by hiring a blacklisted company.”
Mufti alleged that their plan of action is such that they want to dispossess the people of Jammu and Kashmir and bring them to their knees. “That’s why they do not want to have an assembly which they feel might be empowered and may not follow their diktats,” she said.
Referring to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said it is not possible for the Centre to continue with an “iron-fist approach”.
“It is not possible. They are all draconian measures. You have created a pressure cooker-like situation. Now, they are scared that if they lift the thumb, everything may just come out of it, it may blow into their face. That is why they create more pressure each passing day,” she said.
“They are bringing more laws, arresting more people, they don’t want opposition, they don’t want any kind of dissent, and they don’t want to give any space to voice dissent. They want everything to look goody-goody,” the PDP chief said.
Jammu and Kashmir “is a problem, is a conflict” and an issue between two nuclear powers (India and Pakistan), and one just cannot rule these out, she said.
“Maybe Pakistan is in doldrums at this point of time, it is in deep trouble, but somehow it is going to be there whether we want it or not. Then we have our own problems. We have our own issues with the central government,” Mufti said.
“There has to be engagement and reconciliation and resolution. We may try to sweep it under the carpet for as many years as we want, but it is going to be there, in one form or the other,” she said.
Referring to the developments related to Khalistan sympathiser and radical preacher Amritpal Singh in Punjab, she said she doesn’t know whether “it is really happening or is the BJP trying to create a situation like that”.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a more sensitive state than Punjab; it has more historical and geographical baggage than Punjab. It is not only about Article 370, it is about general resolution of the problem. I know BJP wants us to talk only about (Article) 370, not resolution. Then they want us to talk about statehood,” Mufti said.
“Now in a way they have succeeded in bringing the majority of the political parties to the issue of elections, but I do not think that people of J&K want to normalise everything like this,” she said.
Mufti said people want a resolution because “so many lives have been lost, there has been so much destruction and suffering”. How can they let it pass and say everything hunky dory, the PDP chief asked.
Meanwhile, PDP chief welcomed the opening of the Sharda Devi Temple near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.
She also expressed hope of 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,” Mufti told reporters here.
Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah e-inaugurated the Mata Sharda Devi temple in Karnah sector of the north Kashmir district.
The PDP chief expressed hope 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, is also resumed,” she said, referring to the now suspended cross-LoC trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad, and Poonch-Rawalakot routes.