Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said like her father late Mufti Mohammad Saeed she is convinced that only a “nationalist party” like BJP can take Kashmir “out of mess.”
She also hailed Prime Minister Narendara Modi for showing “statesmanship” by going to Pakistan uninvited for the “people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Speaking at Ideas Conclave organised in Goa by India Foundation, an influential think tank helmed by senior BJP leaders and cabinet ministers including Ram Madhav, Mehbooba said her father and PDP founder Mufti Saeed was adamant on an alliance with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We would ask him, what are you doing? This is suicidal,” she said, adding the late Mufti would retort by saying that “the BJP is a nationalist party and if we are able to convince them, they would do anything and everything to take Kashmir out of the mess.”
“He would tell us that if you are able to convince them (BJP) that Jammu and Kashmir can be saved like this, then they will listen,” she said.
She said the PDP-BJP alliance had a much “wider vision” as far her Saeed was concerned.
“ It was to bring the Kashmir Valley and Jammu closer, Valley and Delhi closer to each other and shake hands with a Prime Minister who had a two-third majority behind him, the mandate of people of India behind him, who is in a position to take certain bold decisions which can take Jammu and Kashmir out of its present situation,” she said.
“His vision, his belief was so deep that even though we tried to dissuade him , he wouldn’t get dissuaded.”
She hailed the efforts by the Modi government to ease the tension with Pakistan. She claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shown “statesmanship” by adopting the same policy when he visited Lahore as adopted by former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
“People keep on telling that he went uninvited. Yes he did that but he did it for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, for the part of his body which is hurting for so many years. Unfortunately, it was followed by a terror attack,” she said.
“That is what Modiji did. He went to Lahore, nobody else would have done that. It was really statesman-like. The BJP being a nationalist party can do anything and everything to get Kashmir out of this mess in which we are,” she commented.
Stating that eliminating militants alone will not solve the problems of the state, she called for a change in the present discourse on militancy, fighting, crackdowns etc.
“Those in the Army and other security forces feel that they have done their job to a great extent. Now, there is a need for a healing touch policy for the political process to take over,” Mehbooba said.
“They (security forces) have created a conducive atmosphere. There is a general feeling among the police and security forces that they are doing their job, but they alone cannot do it,” Mufti said while responding to a question from journalist Rahul Pandita about the possibility of the “sacrifices” made by police and security forces to bring Kashmir “militarily under control” being undermined by the state government adopting a soft approach towards “separatist and jihadi elements” in the Valley like Masarat Alam and Qasim Faktoo.
“We need to have a healing touch policy. It does not mean (going) soft. If tomorrow, the court lets (hardline separatist leader) Masarat Alam go, in a democracy, what can you do?
“If he (Alam) goes to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court says there is nothing against him now and that you can’t hold him back anymore, what will you do?,” she asked.
“Would you say no?…No, you can’t! You have these institutions. We cannot undermine these institutions for the sake of one person because one person cannot create a havoc,” Mufti said.
She added that flushing out militants from Jammu and Kashmir would not solve the problem completely.
“If we kill 200 militants, 200 more will come from Pakistan, what to do?”she said.
“We need to do what we did during (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s time. I am sure the situation can be turned around,” she said, referring to the peace initiatives taken by the former prime minister with Pakistan.
She was also asked what her government was doing to “inculcate nationalism” among Kashmiris considering that “nationalism is in the DNA of the Central government.”
“Nationalism is not something that you can inculcate from outside. It comes from within. And I have seen it, growing up in Jammu and Kashmir, whether it was the prayer time in schools, watching a movie, or the response people gave to Indira ji when she would come to Kashmir. It is not that you will give us a pill and change everything overnight. It is there. You can feel it at times but the only thing is when something else happens.”
Mufti said there was a need to change the discourse about Jammu and Kashmir.
“Today, the discourse is about militancy, fighting, crackdowns. We need to change that discourse and that is where the whole country has to help us,” she said.
“I remember when I was young, people used to say ‘Mufti saab bahut achhe hai, par Hindustani hai’ (Mufti saab is good, but he is an Indian). Many people would say that. I wouldn’t understand that if he was a good person, why were they saying he was a Hindustani,” Mehbooba said while referring to Saeed.
“For me, India was Indira (Gandhi). For me, India was Taj Mahal…it was the movies we used to watch. There are lakhs of people like me (in Jammu and Kashmir) who understand India and there are those, in the minority, who do not believe in it,” she said.
Mufti said there were many people in the Valley who were caught up in a (difficult) situation.
“The quicker we get out of this situation, you will not need to teach nationalism to Kashmiris, but in fact, they will teach you (nationalism),” she said.
Asked if the situation in Kashmir would be different had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, become the first PM, Mehbooba said the state was and is a Muslim majority state which had chosen to stay with “secular India.”
“We should not punish the state for choosing to stay with India. It is not about Nehru or Patel. It was a decision that it will be a crown and a showcase. Let it stay a crown and do not crush it.”
“Thousands of acres of land is with the Army, security forces . They have all the ammunition and arms with them but that doesn’t change anything on the ground. It’s about emotional connectivity . You have to mould people, reach out to them . It doesn’t happen by bulldozing.”
“ We have to maintain a balance between using force against people who need it and people who deserve our attention. Force is not the only option.”
Mehbooba also said her government was also helping the Kashmiri Pandits who did not migrate, so that they don’t feel as if they paid a price for staying back.
She was speaking about her government’s efforts to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits who migrated on a large scale after the insurgency began in the state.
“My father, in the year 2002, started building transit accommodations for Kashmiri pandits. Now we are trying to add more accommodations to those places,” she said, responding to a question during an interaction.
“As far as Kashmiri Pandits are concerned, I have met many of them and they feel more comfortable in the places where they have started living in last five to ten years,” she said.
“So we are already on the job, and we are not only getting back Kashmiri Pandits but we are also trying to rehabilitate the people who are already staying there,” the chief minister said.
“Kashmiri Pandits who are living here (who didn’t leave the state despite the insurgency) also need attention.
“We are also trying to give them jobs, so that they don’t pay the penalty of staying back,” she said.