Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and President, J&K People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on Friday claimed that there is total distrust and disconnect between people of Kashmir and Delhi.
Delivering a talk on “Kashmir: The Way Forward” at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai, on 14 December, Ms. Mufti referred to the 2002-05 era of joint diplomacy, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and her father Mufti Muhamed Sayed was the Chief Minister and said it was the “golden period of Kashmir.”
Ms. Mufti expressed her displeasure about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inability in restoring peace in the Valley.
In the talk, Ms Mufti addressed all dimensions of the Kashmir issue and its impending future. She called her party’s alliance with BJP in 2014 a “suicide”, which was done in the hope that Modi will pick up where Vajpayee left.
Mufti expressed uncertainty over the PDP’s role in the proposed grand alliance against the BJP-led coalition for the 2019 elections, but mentioned about her ongoing talks with Mayawati and Chandrababu Naidu.
Talking about the performance of the Congress in the recently concluded State elections, Ms Mufti said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who had been in active electoral politicis since the mid-1990s, has “arrived on the national scene,” while maintaining her displeasure for the UPA. She remarked that an alliance between the Congress, the National Conference and the PDP is “pragmatic” in the light of the emerging political situation in the country.
Ms Mufti advocated to replace the idea of “Azad Kashmir” with a constructive idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. She pitched the idea of unfiying all SAARC nations in making Jammu & Kashmir an ideal model of cooperation and peace. Additionally, she recommended setting up of an international handicrafts university in the State. She also spoke about the plight of Kashmiris and expressed her concerns about polarisation of the discourse around violence in the Valley.
Ms Mufti said it is important for Kashmir’s future to be included in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), arguing that Kashmir’s inclusion in the corridor will be an opportuity for the State and not a security threat as perceived by the security experts and policy makers.
In a rare gesture by a political leader, Ms Mufti expressed her apologies to a young Kashmiri girl in the audience, who questioned her regarding unfair state persecution of common people, particularly after Burhan Wani’s killing. “The state response to growing disturbance following the death of Burhan Wani was the need of the hour. I know that many had to suffer as a result. But I am aware of their plight and I am sorry for what your family had to go through,” she said.
(This report was prepared by Ritika Kapoor and Shweta Kushe, Research Interns at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai)