Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday said the country cannot go back to 1947 and that there was need to find an alternative to the idea of ‘Azad Kashmir’ within the framework of the Indian constitution.
“We need to replace the idea of ‘Azad Kashmir’ with a better idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. We cannot go back to 1947, we have to move forward,” said Mehbooba while addressing a gathering at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai on the topic, ‘Kashmir – the way forward’.
Maintaining that governance was only possible only if there was peace, Mehbooba said that Kashmiris were suffering. “Kashmiris are the sufferers. Till when will our people keep witnessing this farce of people getting killed?” she asked.
Hitting out at Modi-led government, she said that there is total distrust and disconnect between people of Kashmir and Delhi. “They (people of Jammu and Kashmir) look inwards or outwards (outside the border) for support,” said Mehbooba.
Praising then PM Vajpayee, Mehbooba said the people of Kashmir thought of him as a leader who cared. “Even Pakistan responded positively resulting in reduction of militancy and ceasefire,” she said, adding that the period between 2002 and 2005 when her father Mufti Sayeed was the chief minister was the “golden period of Kashmir, since for the first time the CM of Kashmir and PM of India were on the same page.”
Mehbooba said the joining of hands with the BJP after the 2014 elections was suicide. “After the 2014 elections, we joined hands with the BJP. It was suicide, but we put everything on the line because we hoped that Modi will pick up where Vajpayee ji left. Unfortunately, Modi ji could not rise to the occasion,” she said in her address.
On South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC), Mehbooba said she personally felt that SAARC countries were being held hostage to the animosity between India and Pakistan.
“For example, why can’t we have a SAARC Handicrafts University in Kashmir?” she asked, adding: “All the SAARC nations must come together and make Jammu and Kashmir a model of cooperation,” she said.
Talking over the killing of slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani and the aftermath in which nearly 100 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured, the only woman chief minister of J&K said: “As CM, I had a normal situation for just two months. Then Burhan Wani was killed and all the discourse for the rest of my term was focused on law and order.”
Mehbooba also said the alliance between National Conference, PDP and the NC, was the ‘need of the hour.’
On election scenario in India, Mehbooba said while in neighboring country, India has never been an election issue for the country, but for India, Pakistan remains a core election mantra.
“India is never an issue during Pakistan elections. However, that is not the case in India,” she said.
On the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir valley, Mehbooba said she was brought up in a Kashmiri Pandit family and the loss of the community is loss to Kashmir.
“They were amazing teachers. Their loss is a loss to Kashmir. I pray that one day they can respectfully return to their homes,” Mehbooba said.
Taking a dig at national media, Mehbooba said being an important stakeholder it is adding fuel to the fire in case of Kashmir.
“Unfortunately, the Media which is an important stakeholder in this discussion, is only adding fuel to the fire. The shaking of fists and shouting at one another is not representative of the real Kashmir. We need to change the discourse,” she said.