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Protests set us back, can we even talk of AFSPA now, asks J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti

Mufti has said that the solution to Kashmir lies in making borders “irrelevant” and increasing connectivity to and from PoK, China and Central Asia.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | Jammu |
December 17, 2016 5:16:49 am
jammu and kashmir, J&K, Mehbooba Mufti, AFSPA, jammu and kashmir Protests, J&K Protests, india news, indian express J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti at the closing ceremony of 65th All India police hockey championship in Jammu on Friday. PTI

THE protests that rocked the Valley since the killing of Burhan Wani in July have set back the process of reconciliation, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said. Underlining that she is “cent per cent convinced” that her party PDP’s alliance with “BJP is full of possibilities to get Kashmir out of this turmoil with honour and dignity for our people”, Mufti has said that the solution to Kashmir lies in making borders “irrelevant” and increasing connectivity to and from PoK, China and Central Asia.

In her first interview after taking over as Chief Minister — details will be published in The Sunday Express — Mufti told The Indian Express at her Jammu home that the “basic reason” for her to be Chief Minister with BJP’s support is to achieve “reconciliation so that the (Kashmir) issue is resolved amicably”.

“The day I feel that I have failed in this purpose, I will not take even a second to give up,” she said. “I will instead leave politics and prefer to stay at home.’’ Calling the current quiet in the Valley a “fragile calm,” she said: “We have a lot of work to build bridges and mend fences.”

About 100 civilians were killed and 1000 blinded in the security crackdown that followed Wani’s killing. Mufti said her government would evolve a “mechanism” to probe the cases of killings, injuries and blindings of people by police and security forces. “I am myself convinced that we need to do something about it (the deaths). It won’t be put under carpet…”

Asked why she hadn’t moved on the key elements of the PDP agenda, she said the protests over “five six months have taken us back on many things”. “We stand for each and every word that is in our Agenda for Alliance,” she said. “But there is also time factor, which is important. Can you talk about revocation of AFSPA at this point of time? That is why I am saying that whatever happened during the last five six months hasn’t helped. It has rather had a very adverse effect on everything including the government because we would have been at somewhere else at this time”.
Asked what was her response to the massive Azadi groundswell after Wani’s killing, Mufti said that she wasn’t “denying that there is an issue” which needs to be resolved. However, for any reconciliation, “you need to create a conducive atmosphere…(and) there wasn’t enough time given to me so that we could create a conducive atmosphere.’’

The Kashmir problem isn’t something that happened yesterday and will be resolved today, she said. “…if you feel that creating violence, creating death and destruction is the solution to the problem, you are wrong. I don’t think it is good to go for death and destruction only for the sake of keeping the problem alive. I think it is weakening the case instead. If you look at the whole world, nobody is ready to stand by violent means, the gun, no matter how genuine your case may be”.

She said that the solution to the Kashmir issue is to “make the borders irrelevant,’’ and talked about opening a “dozen routes” to not only “connect with PoK… but Central Asia” and China. “Why can’t we get connected? Why can’t our country connect us? Why can’t they think about all these routes endorsed by working group reports and work on them? Because today Syria is an independent country but look what is happening there…so independence has changed its meaning. It is more about globalization, more about economy, how much you can go around. It is about free borders,” she said. “If China is building an economic corridor in the other side of Kashmir, we are also centrally located and our country can use this door to reach out other countries through J&K. We are so strategically placed. This is again endorsed by working group reports. This is part of our agenda”.

Mufti admitted that she was surprised by the course of events after Wani was killed. She had a sense, she said, that boys would attend his funeral but “to such an extent, I had never thought.” Asked about the violence and the deaths, she said: “It was such a feeling that I can’t even express because I had never imagined that there is going to be a day when I am going to be at the helm of affairs and something like this can happen. It was a shock. I had never comprehended in my life that something like this is going to happen. I don’t have words.’’

“At times your mind goes blank.. you are doing everything, you are imposing curfew, you are seeing to it that people don’t come out. You are talking to security guys all the time, telling them please observe restraint. You are constantly telling them, please don’t do this, please don’t do that. And again something happens and people get injured and killed. It was helplessness at that point of time”.

She said she also felt angry at parents of children who joined the protests. “I was angry. How could people allow their kids to go out in such a charged atmosphere?” She said that at times she was angry at the state machinery too. “…when I would feel they could have been more cautious,’’ she said. “But it is also easier said than done because when you are sitting at a place (away from the spot) and you feel why did they use this pellet gun or why did they use tear gas shell but you don’t know what is happening at that time there. While so many people were injured and killed, at the same time good number of policemen also got injured. But then I would get upset and angry because I feel police and security forces are disciplined forces and they are elders (adults). May be by being a little more cautious, we would have saved some lives,’’ she said.

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