- Says Art 370 a historic commitment
- Pitches for opening all historic routes
NEW DELHI: Terming dialogue as the only way to get Jammu and Kashmir out of the cycle of violence and uncertainty, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday hoped that the appointment of an interlocutor by the Centre would help in creating a congenial atmosphere for a way forward in the state. She said exploiting the state’s geo-strategic position and opening it up to the outside world would herald a new era of prosperity and growth in the region.
Participating on Saturday in Express Adda, an interactive session hosted here by a leading national daily, the Chief Minister said dialogue with all stakeholders in the state is the dire need of the hour to end bloodshed, acrimony and hatred besides heralding the growth of business, trade and the economy. “For how long can we go like this?” she asked while stressing on a sustained dialogue process to end the violence and the miseries of the people of the state, whom she described as the worst victims of this tragedy.
Welcoming the Centre’s decision to appoint an interlocutor to take the dialogue process ahead, Mehbooba Mufti said that it was the first time that such an engagement by the Centre had been properly formalised at the highest level. She hoped that with an illustrious and unblemished track record behind him, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma would be able to steer the process ahead to a substantive conclusion. She also underlined the need for supporting this process by all agencies and to not do anything which would disturb the ambience of the dialogue process. “It is all the more important to include all those people in the dialogue process whose ideas about the state are different from ours,” she added. Similarly, she said, both India and Pakistan have to learn to live like good neighbours and resolve all differences through peaceful engagement and reconciliation.
Terming Article 370 as a bridge of faith between the state and the rest of the country, the Chief Minister said it is also a historic commitment people of the country made to the people of Jammu & Kashmir when the Muslim-majority state voluntarily acceded to an egalitarian society of the country. She however regretted the misconception among certain sections in the country about the special position of the state.
On her vision about the state, Mehbooba Mufti said she wishes to make Jammu & Kashmir the most happening place in the country with more positive actions, investment, trade and business activity. She said the state’s geo-strategic position needs to be channelized by opening all its historic trade routes, thereby making it the gateway to Central Asia. “This can really change the world for our people,” she said, adding that the impact of the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road has led to demands for opening more such routes in the state such as the Jammu-Sialkote one.
On the alliance of her party with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Chief Minister said it was a historic decision not aimed at government-formation but at getting Jammu & Kashmir out of turmoil and distress and the Agenda of Alliance clearly lays down a roadmap for this. “It was a reach-out to the whole country given the massive mandate the Prime Minister got in the last elections,” she said, adding that a leader like Mr Narendra Modi, whom she described as very considerate on many occasions vis-à-vis Jammu & Kashmir, has the mandate and courage to change the course of history.
Terming the role of a section of the national media as very critical in the context of the state, Mehbooba said the media needs to build a positive and reconciliatory narrative on the state. “We have many success stories among youth in the recent past to follow. They did wonders despite the turmoil around, but it never got the national media’s attention. Tajamul Islam, Zaira Wasim, IAS toppers, sports icons, Rhodes scholar Samir Rashid etc., but they did not get as much attention of the national media as the stuff that promotes hatred,” she said. “Some sections of the national media, unfortunately, choose people of extreme opinions, which brings confrontation in society,” she said while advising the national media to play a constructive, even though critical, role while discussing the state and to sensitise itself about the pain, tribulations and miseries of the people of the state.
The Chief Minister said the situation in the state has improved considerably since last year and sectors like tourism and trade have started to pick up pace. She said she has directed the security establishments to prefer the return of local militants to the social mainstream to their killing.
Replying to a question on the rising incidents of intolerance and other hate crimes in the country, Mehbooba said the common citizens are as tolerant and accommodative as they used to be before. “The DNA of this country would not change. That is why we chose to be with India which is as liberal as any other society in the world,” she said adding incidents of hate crimes bring disrepute to this tolerant ethos of the country.
On her impressions about the people of the state, the Chief Minister described them as a grateful lot. “Even a small favour you do to them, they would acknowledge gleefully,” she said while narrating many anecdotes from her public life of the past two decades or more to drive home the point.
On the issues facing the current polity of the country, Mehbooba said that it is high time that the Women’s Reservation Bill is given proper thought by the Parliament. She laid stress on the social empowerment of women alongside their political and economic empowerment. She said a value system to respect women needs to be inculcated among children to put an end to atrocities on womenfolk.
Terming working for youth as her passion, the Chief Minister said she intends to give them a better, secure future. “I have worked with them since long. I need everybody’s help to save them from becoming victims of an uncertain situation. They are full of energy and talent, and I want to channelize that for their and society’s betterment”, she said.
The interactive session was attended by politicians, media persons, public policy analysts, academicians, retired civil servants and other informed groups of society.