Ideal time to restart talks with separatists: Mehbooba

“As soon as one says the word dialogue, electronic media and others say you are appeasing the separatists, appeasing the other side. Dialogue is engagement for reconciliation,” Mehbooba said.

Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 18 2017 12:42AM | Updated Date: Jul 18 2017 12:42AM
Ideal time to restart talks with separatists: MehboobaPhoto: Mubashir Khan/GK

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said dialogue or engagement should not be confused with appeasement as the exercise is for reconciliation. In an interview with The Hindu, first since the attack on Amarnath yatris, she said the widespread condemnation of the attacks showed Kashmiriyat is still most important for Kashmir, and advocated restarting the dialogue with separatists.

“As soon as one says the word dialogue, electronic media and others say you are appeasing the separatists, appeasing the other side. Dialogue is engagement for reconciliation,” Mehbooba said.

On media’s portrayal of Kashmir, the CM said, “The electronic media is powerful and its images have an impact. We see on TV 24X7 only the same images of a dozen odd young boys with their faces covered, pelting stones. This also encourages the stone pelters, as they see that gets them attention. Kashmiris feel offended by the debates on TV that pits India against Pakistan and paints Kashmiris badly, and that adds to their alienation. Even if the intention of the media may be good, but not understanding the situation on ground, they tend to get carried away.”

When asked several districts becoming no-go areas for Central security forces, particularly her own area of South Kashmir, she said, “This is a false idea. Of course we are going there, maybe Ministers aren’t visiting as much, but our workers are there. But if you follow national electronic media, you would think every part of Kashmir is like that. I don’t think it should be shut down, but someone needs to explain to them that they are not helping the country in anyway with these aggressive debates and putting Kashmiri youth in a bad light. I was really shocked when I heard someone asking “Why do Kashmiris have pink cheeks” and raising questions about their ancestry. It can’t get worse than that.”

On her China statement, Mehbooba explained, “Whenever there is an external threat, whether it is from Pakistan or from China, or any other country, the whole country gets together like, in the current standoff, all the Opposition parties met and assured the government that they are behind them. Kashmir is the place where everything is centred — first it was Pakistan, and now with China too, when they find nothing else worked in the [Doklam situation], they have picked up the Kashmir stick to beat India with. My point is, in the rest of the country this is seen as a national threat, where everyone is united. But when it happens in Jammu and Kashmir, it becomes the State government’s fault. As if there is no external factor, no infiltration, no problem other than a law and order one. How can you ignore that there has been a problem in J&K for 70 years? Everyday our security forces and civilians are sacrificing lives, why not see that?”

To a question whether PDP’s standing in the Valley has suffered because of the alliance, she answered, “When you have a larger objective in mind, which my father did, he put everything at stake: his leadership, credibility, the party he worked so hard to build, all because he wanted to bring the State out of the mess of so many years. He thought that Mr. Modi, with such a huge mandate, was the one person who could follow in the footsteps of Mr. Vajpayee, and create again that magic of 2002. I think Mr. Modi has tried all around, he even went to Lahore, but unfortunately it wasn’t reciprocated in the same manner. And I have to do the same.”

Asked about transfer of power projects, AFSPA, Kashmiri Pandits and West Pakistan refugees, the CM said, “Unfortunately our government didn’t have time to stabilise. It was hardly three months before all hell broke loose [with Burhan Wani killing]. With this situation and the violence, it became more difficult to identify places for example, for Kashmiri Pandits to move back to. Again, we have discussed the transfer of power projects: it will give Kashmiris a real sense of achievement about the alliance, but it is taking time to persuade people in Delhi. We will hand over more transit accommodation in the next 2-3 months. The Pandits have said they would prefer to live in the locality they are already living in. We will also build new colonies that will be mixed, with all faiths, and presently two-three families share one flat.”

On allegation of nepotism in the government, her younger brother, despite not elected, nor being part of the government, but seemingly wielding a lot of power in the civil secretariat, Mehbooba said, “He is not in the civil secretariat. If he has ever set foot there, I would put in my papers. He is an internationally acclaimed cinematographer. Yes he is a coordinator in the Chief Minister’s grievances cell, and deals with people who have problems, and maybe he ruffles some feathers when he asks for action to be taken. He works without a salary, but he is very attached to Kashmir and cares about environmental and public issues. It’s too early to say what his future role will be, we don’t even know when the Anantnag election will be held [that he is the PDP candidate for].”