Srinagar, Giving a new twist to the Article 370, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said its spirit flows on the roads of Jammu where all faiths and cultures met to give J&K an all-inclusive identity. Insisting that dialogue was paramount, she said that must precede an internal consensus. Mufti was winding the discussions on the governor’s address in state’s House of Elders.
Mufti said her father’s decision to ally with BJP in 2014 was historic and should be second such milestone after the accession in 1947.
“Article 370 is just not a piece of paper. It was drafted to protect the culture of the state, its civilization,” Mufti said in the middle of her 40-minute speech. “But Kashmir is not Kashmir, it is something else, I do not know what – may be Afghanistan or Syria.”
Jammu, she said, has inherited the ideas and ideals that Kashmir was all about. “Be it Kashmiri Pandit, Sikh, Gujjar or a Muslim, Jammu accommodates them all openly,” Mufti said. “In Kashmir, people carry faces devoid of emotion and when they come to Jammu, they smile, they feel at ease, they feel breathing.”
“The real soul of Article 370 has gone missing and that spirit I see flowing on the Jammu streets,” Mufti said. “A Pandit has a home, so has a Muslim. There is call for prayers from the mosque, anad Bhajan from a temple as scriptures are being read from the Gurdwara. This is Article 370…. This was what was once happening in Mukhdoom Sahab but Kashmir has forgotten all this.”
At the same time, however, she mentioned that when a Kashmiri Pandit marries in Kashmir, entire village is the guest and when a mob moves towards attacking a yatra camp, a village woman gets up and stays in between.
In Kashmir, she regretted, the bogey of ‘demographic change’ has evolved to deny “our own people from returning home”. She said Kashmiri Pandits migrated and want to return but that has resulted in the sloganeering of ‘demographic change’. “How will the demography change, if our own people return home?” she asked.
Handling the issue of AFSPA, Mufti said its withdrawal will depend on the success of the forces. “All the sections have a consensus on one thing that violence will have to rooted out and the harsh laws have to be withdrawn,” Mufti said. “But the footprints of security forces will automatically reduce when the militancy goes down.”
Invoking Vajpayee doctrine, Mufti said that while neighbours, unlike friends, can not be changed Delhi will have to talk to Islamabad because that is key to the well being of J&K. She, however, regretted that Pathankote happened despite Prime Minister Modi visiting Lahore.
Referring to her meetings with the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, she said he was keen to take the talk forward and ensure that there is free exchange of services and sharing of resources. “But somehow he could not do,” she said. “Had this been in place, we could have supplied teacher to other Kashmir after the earthquake.”
On dialogue, Mufti regretted that doors were closed on the “cream of society” that came visiting Kashmir. This, she said, was despite the fact that she had written a letter to her ideological opponents to keep their doors open for the visiting dignitaries. “That has sent a very wrong message to the country and will take time to be set right,” Ms Mufti said.
At the same time, however, Mufti said before going for talks, “there is requirement of talking within” J&K.
Talking about the alliance with BJP, Mufti said her father was “a man of conviction and commitment” whose decision to ally with BJP should be seen as the second major historic event after 1947. “He wanted to get Kashmir out of this morass,” Mufti said, “All his decisions were out of his conviction.”
Chief Minister reiterated her position on the casualties of the past summer saying a lot of youngsters were killed. She said while specific SITs will investigate certain cases, the government will set up SIT at district levels too. “If required we will go for more investigation,” she said. Incidentally, apart from the few cases she was mentioning routinely, she added the case of Lattoos of Bejbehara whose father had asked youth to avoid stone-pelting if they want to participate in the funeral of his son. “If I do not respect this family, whom should I?” she asked.
Mufti said the democracy and the house are the only two tools that can help to respond to the situation that exists in the state. “Battle of ideas is important,” she said, insisting her father used to tell her that ideas can neither be killed nor jailed. “We have to have a parallel narrative involving the house, the constitution, the flag and the endless possibilities that they offer.” She said she met a group of youth who returned from a visit, who told her: “people of our country are good.”