Embattled Mehbooba calls for peace

Embattled Mehbooba calls for peace
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Says Kashmir’s fate joined to India, not Pakistan, announces gas agency for the pellet-blinded Insha

Jammu: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday underscored the need for every political party to come together to end the “vicious cycle” in Jammu and Kashmir. She also said that the people of J&K state had decided their fate in 1947 and “Pakistan needs to understand that”.
Addressing the lower house of the state legislature, Mehbooba in a speech of more than 47 minutes said that the situation in Kashmir had not been created by her government, but had been inherited from the past.
“As well said by my colleague, Anjum (Fazili), development will follow peace,” she said. “There is a situation in Kashmir but it is not a thing of the present system… it has been here for long. And I am concerned for this situation; concerned that in the past two years it has not improved… abhi bhi bahut naazuk hai (it is still very delicate).”
Mehbooba asserted that the people of Jammu and Kashmir did not support the Partition in 1947 and joined their fate with that of secular India. “We need to get back to our roots,” she said. “Pakistan needs to understand that J&K has joined the Union of India and sealed its fate. There is a need to understand that J&K can become a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan.”
“The Muslim majority of J&K joined India and refused to be divided on the basis of religion… we have shrine of Makhdoom sahab on one side and a temple on the other side,” she said. “J&K became part of India like the Taj (Mahal).”
“There was massacre, bloodshed in Punjab and Bengal but people in J&K lived peacefully here and that is why Gandhi said he saw a ray of hope here,” she said.
She said it was the beauty of secular India that at the time of J&K’s accession to India, the consent of a public representative, who was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, was sought.
“There is a need to revive routes to Central Asia and Iran, to open J&K to the Silk Route,” she said.
“We don’t want to interfere in the foreign policy of India but whenever there are issues between India and Pakistan, people of J&K are the worst victims,” she said. “I am happy that the NSAs (national security advisers of India and Pakistan) have met in recent past,” she said.
However, she pointed out, Pakistan had not reciprocated to the Lahore trip of Prime Minister Modi in early 2016.
On the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, she said that it was for the first time that the Government of India (GoI) had given Cabinet Secretary status to any representative on Jammu and Kashmir. “He is the most powerful of anyone sent to this state so far. He has the mandate to talk to any individual for resolution of issues,” she said.
On the resistance leadership’s boycott of Sharma, she said, “You can take the horse to the stream but you can’t force it to drink water.”
“Our leaders also went to their doors for talks but they did not open them… Those who do not want to talk, what can we do… whatever we can, we did, and the political process has to be shared by all. The government has done its part,” she said.
In a rather blunt statement, she said, “Let me be clear to the mainstream (politicians) and to those outside the mainstream: whatever we will get, we will get it from this country only (India), as has always happened in the past.”
Mehbooba said that the situation cannot be improved by the government alone. “There has to be a political process… only police and security forces can’t improve the situation,” she said. “We think so and the people of India also need to think so.”
“14,000 bunkers along the border are being constructed but I am hurt when I see such a situation… our focus should have instead been on construction of hospitals and promotion of tourism in these areas,” she said.
“I want to ask our own people in India whether these bunkers will fill the gaps in the education of the children who live on borders,” she asked.
On the importance of J&K Assembly, Mehbooba referred to the speeches of her later father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. “Mufti sahab would always say that our assembly is the most powerful in the entire India. On GST (goods and services tax), we debated and discussed… it was passed and implemented in J&K only when we wanted it to happen,” she said.
“Mufti sahab would impress upon the safeguarding of the state constitution and its flag,” she said.
“Whosoever is killed, martyred, is from J&K… leave those who are sent from across,” she said, recalling the names of civilians and government forces personnel who were killed in recent months.
“Ours is the biggest role in seeking a solution to the Kashmir issue,” she told the assembly, in which opposition benches remained empty after Leader of Opposition called for a boycott of the chief minister’s speech.
Talking of her government’s achievements, she said that more than 60,000 causal employees were being regularised. “Now they won’t be going to ministers for salary,” she said. “So far, they were being exploited only… 3 lakh people will get settled by this and they will live a life of dignified livelihood now,” she said.
She said that her government gave general amnesty to first-time stone-pelters. “It had started in 2016 when 500-600 cases were reviewed,” she said. “There is a negative impact on their lives due to these FIRs,” she said about youths booked on charges of stone-pelting.
She said her government registered 4 to 4.5 lakh employees for health insurance. “There was cadre review of KPS and ex-gratia to slain policemen was increased. The loans given to slain policemen were softened,” she told the House.
The CM said that about 1,000 cases of SRO-43 were processed, and promotion in various departments was given.
Announcing a gas agency for the pellet-blinded Insha Mushtaq, the CM said, “We have this ‘ehsaas’ (realization) that Insha should not be forever dependent on her brother or father.”
“Besides, we have given jobs to 12 adult pellet victims,” Mehbooba told the House.
The chief minister said that the Scooty scheme launched by her government for college-going girls was getting popular and there was more demand for the same. “I went to Kupwara, Rajouri and Kathua and people asked me to launch such a scheme in their areas, too,” she said.
She said her government had ended corruption in recruitment. “Ten to fifteen thousand persons were recruited last year. The highest corruption used to happen in employment in J&K, but show me now one complaint during our period,” she asserted.
“We recruited people in police; show me if any money has been taken or anyone was appointed on sifarish (recommendation)… people would sell gold, cows, horses or land to get a police job,” she said. “We have fast-tracked the process of recruitment in SSRB, PSC and police.”
She said that her government was constructing two AIIMS while Sheikh Abdullah had constructed only one SKIMS. “We have got two smart cities and for that, GoI had to change rules,” she said.
“But the discourse is something different,” she said, endorsing the view shared by her party MLA Javed Beg that the media was sensationalising death in Kashmir. “When we turn on our TV sets in the evening, there are killings, border shelling, fidayeen attacks and encounters,” she said. “Our good and big measures are lost in all this.”
“Burhan Wani… Afzal Guru death squads… these are all challenges for everyone of us, not only for government,” she added. “Javed (Beg) was right that the political issue was being turned into a religious issue. We can solve political issues but…”
She said that the most special thing about J&K was its harmony and brotherhood. “I don’t want to talk of what is happening in mainland India, but harmony and brotherhood is the legacy for our children and we need to safeguard the social fabric of Kashmir,” she said.
Explaining the reason for the lukewarm pace in development projects, Mehbooba said that outside contractors were reluctant to work in Kashmir “due to the situation”. “Local contractors do not fulfil the requirements, which is why the projects are stalled and the money has remained unspent,” she said.
Responding to criticism of her administration, she said, “People compare 70 years of J&K with those 3 years of late Mufti Sayeed, from 2002 to 2005. They know well there was complete change (under the Mufti Sayeed government).”
Recalling the days of Atal Behari Vajpayee as PM, she said that the NDA government under him “was very much people-friendly”.
“You can’t change neighbours,” she said. “Vajpayee sahab went to Lahore while 7 persons were killed in Rajouri so that his mission should fail… Kargil happened but Musharraf was invited… He (Vajpayee) talked to everyone but Geelani sahab.”
“His heart beat for the people,” she said of Vajpayee. “He wanted a pen in the hand of those youth who are told to pick up the gun,” she said. “The gun is being glorified but we are trying to bring back local militants… our police saved an injured militant who was firing all through the night and took him to hospital,” she said.
“I am thankful to those parents who appealed to their children to come back… now the classfellows at AMU have appealed to the boy (Manan Wani) to come back, and I wish he comes home… it is our loss… one militant is killed, another picks up the gun… it is a vicious circle we have to break.”
Referring to the Hurriyat Conference leadership, she said, “They have to come forward and understand how to stop whatever is happening here. We are ready for talks but we can’t force them.”
She also spoke of a problem in the bureaucracy, that many officers don’t go out in the field. “But many honest officers know on their fingertips about their work and projects,” she, however, added.