Without mentioning Kashmir, says talks, not confrontation, can solve ‘issues’
Jammu: Accepting the first Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Award for ‘Probity in Politics and Public Life’, Bihar chief minister and BJP ally Nitish Kumar on Monday said that talks, not confrontation, can solve the Kashmir issue. He praised the late Mufti Sayeed as a man who believed in honesty and described the award given to him as an honour for the people of his state.
Kumar was accompanied by his deputy and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi to the award function in Jammu. He fondly recalled his association with the late Mufti, especially the food served at his home. “As member of the political affairs committee (in the Janata Dal government), I attended many meetings at the residence of Mufti sahib and I cannot forget the food we would cherish there,” he said.
The award to Nitish Kumar has been instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in memory of its founder and twice chief minister of J&K, late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Kumar was given the award by J&K Governor NN Vohra at a function held at the General Zorawar Singh Stadium in the University of Jammu. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, and economist-author Lord Meghnad Desai were present on the occasion. The award contained framed certificate, a shawl and a Karakul cap.
Kumar said that Mufti Sayeed was the first Muslim home minister of India, and it was VP Singh’s Janata Dal government that made him so. He said that Mufti believed in love and harmony, transparency and honesty, which Kumar identified as crucial for successful governance and development of any state.
“Mufti sahab believed in these things,” Kumar said. Without mentioning Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “In every way, issues can be solved by talks and love (and) not by confrontation.”
Recalling Mufti’s first term as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Kumar said, “In 2002 a government came into being under Mufti Sayeed that brought peace in J&K and people started travelling to the state.”
“When I was railway minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I had opportunities to visit J&K where I inspected the proposed rail network which had many issues… the Jammu-Katra-Qazigund-Baramulla project was already approved but work had not started,” Kumar said, observing that the terrain of J&K is “the most difficult in entire India”.
“We started work but Mufti Sahib insisted that the rail network in the Valley should be completed soon, keeping in view the aesthetics of Kashmir region. And we were successful. When I accompanied Mufti sahib after we built the Srinagar railway station, he was very happy,” Kumar said.
Inviting Mehbooba Mufti and Deputy CM Nirmal Singh to Bihar, Kumar said, “You have awarded me for my work but it is the work of our entire team and the society.”
“The award is an honour for the people of Bihar,” he said.
Referring to his model of governance, Kumar said that his government had ensured “growth with justice” while keeping in view the environment, archaeology and history of the state. “Development is fine but our past is important,” he said.
Kumar said that Biharis were proud that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born in their state. “Despite a small community of Sikhs living in Bihar, every year we hold functions on his birth anniversary which we consider as our duty,” he said. “It is because of love and sadhbavna (harmony) that we can serve our country and common masses.”
Outside the venue, Kumar refused to talk to the media and was escorted by security staff to his car. TV crews were waiting to ask his response on the recent indictment of Lalu Prasad Yadav, his former ally and friend, in the fodder scam. With folded hands, he kept mum while the special security guards helped him reach his car.
Nitish broke his alliance with Lalu Yadav last year and joined hands with the BJP.