SRINAGAR, MAY 28: Maintaining that the challenge in dealing with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has to be the concern of the entire nation, Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said time has come for the people of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh to begin a new journey with a new hope for a prosperous future.
“It is not the concern of only PDP, NC, Congress or BJP to strive towards pulling Jammu and Kashmir out of the morass, it is and should be the concern of the entire nation,” the Chief Minister said in her 80 minute extempore speech while winding up the discussion on the Motion of Thanks on Governor’s address in the Legislative Assembly this afternoon.
Making it clear that PDP never gave up on its Self-Rule agenda, Ms Mehbooba said in fact the work is already in progress towards the implementation of various elements of this historic roadmap for resolution of the problems of Jammu and Kashmir. “And fortunately BJP is also now partnering with us to revive and carry forward the reconciliation and confidence building process in the State and the region,” she said.
Launching a scathing attack on her political opponents, Ms Mehbooba said unfortunately they want me to get all that back, including power projects and water resources, in just two months, which they surrendered while being in power for the past over three decades. “But I assure you that I will leave no stone unturned to get J&K back what it has lost over the years in lieu of power,” she said and added that unlike National Conference, which rushed for cobbling up alliances for power, PDP had both in 2002 and in 2015 clearly spelled out its terms of engagement in black and white, with Congress and BJP respectively, for government formation.
Turning to Mr Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister said the hue and cry raised by the former chief minister on the issues concerning the political and economic challenges confronting the State sounds hollow given the fate met by his party, National Conference’s autonomy resolution and the repeated compromises made by the party for the power.
“You talk of returning power projects but what happened to autonomy resolution which was thrown into the dustbin by the Centre. We agree that our resources should benefit our state and our people. We should have maximum share in our resources and I and my government are in full agreement on that. But tell me you gave away the power projects and you are now shouting what happened to power projects. We are all answerable to public,” she said.
Urging the Opposition to show patience, the Chief Minister said pointing to opposition benches; “When you were in power, you didn’t make any positive contribution to ease the sufferings in J&K. Give us some time and we will show you how to do it,” she said.
Making it clear that she will deliver on the commitments made with the people, Ms Mehbooba said she will stay in the chair only as long as it is her strength “and the day I feel this chair has become my weakness, I won’t remain clinched to it even for a minute.”
The Chief Minister said the National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah took the crucial decision on Jammu and Kashmir when Kashmir acceded with India under Maharaja. “Sheikh was a popular leader and the decision was not accepted unless it was approved by Sheikh who went on to become the Prime Minister of J&K,” she said.
Ms Mufti said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir had changed dramatically when her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed came into politics. “There was an air against the events of 1947. Those who joined mainstream were declared traitors. When Mufti saheb joined politics, he was aware that India is evolving and new ideas are coming. He believed in the idea of India. He had complaints against the system and leadership of the country but he was convinced that Sheikh saheb’s decision was correct,” she said.
“Our democratic and secular ethos kept this country alive. In a healthy democracy, the role of Opposition is crucial. When Mufti saheb joined Congress, he thought the opposition is missing. He took up the challenge and formed the PDP. If we have to take out J&K from its restive situation, both opposition and ruling parties have to join hands and play a constructive role,” she said.
Lauding the pluralism in J&K, she said it is because of the deep-rooted secularism in Jammu and Kashmir that her father went on to win assembly election from RS Pura in Jammu.
“It is because of our secular nature that a Kashmir Pandits like Makhan Lal Fotedar and Piaray Lal Handoo won from Muslim majority areas. The roots of our ideology are so strong that they can’t be dislodged by any other ideology,” she said.
Expressing gratitude to the members for the sentiments expressed in the house for Mufti Sahab and his contribution, Ms Mehbooba said; “True he was my father and I miss him as a child should. But he was my guide and political Guru as well and his inspiration and guiding spirit are alive in my position as the head of the present coalition government.”
Maintaining that she will be looking out to the entire house for support and guidance, Ms Mehbooba said; “I know trying to run a government in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir in isolation and in disrespect of opposition can have very serious consequences as we have experienced in the past.”
Ms Mehbooba said she is standing in the House at a place where Kashmir’s most towering political leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed used to be in the past. “I see myself as a very small person in front of these political stalwarts and had never imagined that I would have to put on their role at some point in time in my life,” she said adding; “I am taking upon myself this daunting task only to accomplish the vision of my father and in this endeavour of hope I don’t feel alone. My own party, my allies and I hope even my political opponents will be the support system for me that I value,” she said.
The Chief Minister said it is time to define what all of us want Jammu and Kashmir to look like 20 years from now. “Our vision for J&K is to make its people equitable stakeholders in the economic progress unfolding in the world around them. “We have to be equitable stakeholders in the new and prosperous era that our country is witnessing,” she said.
Ms Mehbooba said it is of utmost importance that ‘Kashmir Policy’ should not be based on strategic considerations alone but on the ideals of binding the individuals to the nation by addressing their genuine concerns and aspirations. “We all know history and don’t need to go over it again. I believe in looking forward to solutions rather than be bogged down by the weight of an unpleasant past. We don’t have to invent solution to the state’s problems, we have only to keep our minds free and eyes open to discover the same,” she said adding; “If we were to base our Kashmir policy on the ideological values of democracy, rule of law and tolerance, which have been the defining strength of India, we will be expanding the constituency of peace in the State at the micro level of individuals as well as institutions,” she asserted.
Ms Mehbooba said it is perhaps for the first time since independence that national consensus on Jammu and Kashmir has become possible and even BJP is now committed through its ‘Agenda of Alliance’ with PDP to protect and safeguard J&K’s special status. “The special status of J&K can in fact become the model for a viable federal structure for the whole country in the long run,” she maintained.
Ms Mehbooba said the people of the state have also now realised that they are the masters who can elect the governments of their choice and there is no hegemony of any individual or party. “Responding to the innermost yearning of the people for peace with dignity, it is our collective responsibility to get the state back on course and leap forward to an era of development and prosperity,” she said and added that the violent means have neither served any purpose in the past nor are such means going to serve any purpose in the future. “I urge such youth who resort to violent means to shun the path of violence and live a purposeful life,” she said.
Hailing J&K’s deep-rooted secular ethos, the Chief Minister said Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed many upheavals in the arenas of politics and religion which could not make any significant change in the society because of the deep-rooted pluralism in the state.
“However, the biggest failure of leaders at the Centre and the state has been that they couldn’t connect Jammu region with Kashmir Valley because of which when we talk of AIIMS in Kashmir and IIT in Jammu, it divides the state. But we share common interests and we all want peace and prosperity of our state,” she said.
She said the issues in J&K are blown out of proportion by the TV channels which casts the people of the state in a bad light and also affects tourism which is the backbone of the state’s economy.
“Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke of the issues in NIT recently. Has he ever made any statement when youth of J&K were targeted in the educational institutions of various other states. There is no mention in national media when a girl from Baramulla becomes the youngest pilot, a Kashmiri boy tops the IAS or a boy from NIT Srinagar gets Rs 76 lakh salary package during campus recruitment. No TV channel talks about it. They are only interested in people who mask their faces and unfurl different flags. If such is the level of secularism in our country, God save us for secularists then,” she said.
Charging the opposition of belittling the recent decisions of the government for woman welfare, the Chief Minister said: “I and my sisters have the experience of living an ordinary life. I know what women face on the streets, in buses and other public places. If the small problems of our women are resolved, they should be encouraged. Separate buses for women and women police stations should give them a sense of security,” she said.
She also appreciated Omar Abdullah for extending moral support after her father’s demise, “I am grateful that he didn’t press our party to form the government and understood my delicate situation,” she said.