‘Forces have the land, need to win hearts of people’: Mehbooba on calls to scrap Article 370

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said scrapping Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to the state, will not serve any purpose as “security forces have so much land with them.”

“What can you achieve by scrapping Article 370? You cannot win the hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir. It will make matters worse. We have the land, we need to win the hearts of the people,” she said while speaking in New Delhi  at the Express Adda— a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group—  on Friday.

On the agenda of alliance (AoA) between the BJP and PDP, Mufti said, “The AoA is not between the BJP and PDP, it is between the people of (rest of) India and people of J&K. The Muslim-majority state aligned voluntarily with India. J&K is unique. We have minorities within minorities. When we aligned with this nation, we were promised the uniqueness will be maintained. It’s not a matter of territory. What will you achieve by scrapping 370? There is (sic) so much of (security) forces in J&K. They have so much land with them…” Mufti said.

Mehbooba said she believes “the real secular DNA of India” is not going to change and her party’s alliance with the BJP was a “historical experiment.”

“The DNA of India is not going to change. It is secular and I have faith in the people of the country, and that is the reason we chose India and aligned with a party. It is a historical experiment,”  Mehbooba said.

She was responding to a question on the PDP’s decision to align with the “ideologically opposite” BJP in the state, according to a report in the Indian Express.

She also suggested that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) should “take a back seat” in its action against Hurriyat leaders in the Valley to facilitate an atmosphere for talks.

On the recent NIA raids in the Valley, she said, “To supplement the talks, the NIA should take a backseat.”

The federal investigating agency early this year registered an FIR into “terror funding and stone-pelting” incidents in the Valley and has so far arrested nearly a dozen suspects, including several second-rung Hurriyat leaders. “Ideally they (the NIA) should stop, but I was told that these actions, arrests were initiated earlier,” Mufti said.

Mufti said, “Democracy is a battle of ideas, and dialogue is the only way forward. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an unprecedented mandate and can create history by changing the narrative on Jammu and Kashmir. The country should take advantage of J&K’s geostrategic location and revive its traditional routes to foster greater economic activity. Article 370 is the nation’s commitment to the people of J&K and therefore should be honoured.”

Commenting on the appointment of former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma as the Indian government’s “representative” for Jammu and Kashmir, she said that for the first time, the government of India has officially owned up the dialogue process. “Let’s give him some time. He is experienced, honest and I am sure he will able to do justice. He has authority, which was never there before. The President has ratified his appointment. This is the first time such a stature has been given to somebody.”

She compared Sharma’s appointment to the previous interlocutors sent by the UPA, saying they didn’t have an official position.

Asked about the ‘azadi-self rule-autonomy’ debate, Mufti said self-rule is an idea within the Constitution of India, and that the idea of azadi should be replaced with a better idea. “There is a misconception that autonomy or self-rule is anti-national… It’s all in the Agenda for Alliance,” she said. “What after (even if we chose to be) separate? We need to have a plan of action, need self-respect, then a bright future,” Mufti said.

Asked about the selection of Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh CM, Mufti said his party had won. “This is the beauty of democracy. It is the power of democracy that Yogi (Adityanath) can become the Chief Minister of UP.” About meeting PM Modi, Mufti said she meets him whenever required. “I meet PM Modi often. I find him very open and down-to-earth, who communicates in simple language. He has been very considerate.”

(Featured image: Mehbooba Mufti at the ‘Express Adda’ event in New Delhi/ Indian Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

 

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