J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Monday that Kashmir is going through a "critical phase" but expressed optimism that the prevailing situation would improve. She admitted that the situation was "serious" and a "cause of concern."
"The (present) situation in Kashmir is serious. It is a concern. But it is not that the situation won't improve, I don't agree to it. I have seen worse in 1996 when we were not able to come out of our homes, not to talk of campaigning. We were not able to go to any area. I have seen such situations," Mehbooba said while talking to media on the sidelines of re-opening of civil secretariat offices here following the bi-annual Durbar Move.
There has been no end to civilian protests in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani by forces on July 8 last year. In a fresh challenge for the Government, Kashmir has been witnessing massive demonstrations by students following thrashing of college-goers by forces in Pulwama Degree College on April 15 and killing of eight civilians on the day of by-polls in Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.
Mehbooba said Kashmir has seen worst in the past. "Since 1947, there have been times when Jammu and Kashmir went through bad times," she said.
Talking about the Plebiscite Movement, Mehbooba said it went on for 22 years "but ultimately the then leadership realized that the issues can be resolved through talks only."
"Then Indira-Sheikh accord happened. The situation again turned grim after '90s as militancy sometimes increased and sometimes decreased. Today we are again at a crossroads. Everybody is concerned about the situation. It is not conducive but we are hopeful that things will improve," she said.
Referring to the ongoing protests across Kashmir, Mehbooba said today the students and youth are "angry and disillusioned".
"Some are being provoked. We all have to work together to resolve this situation," she said.
Terming J&K as the "crown and soul" of India, Mehbooba said "when there is J&K, there is India."
"Our youth have the right to live and excel in any part of the country. They should go and win over the rest of the country with their intelligence," she said.
Asserting that every youth in Kashmir is not a stone-pelter, the Chief Minister blamed Indian news channels for making the situation worse in the Valley. She said there were "some people" who pelt stones on forces "but all youth are not stone-pelters."
"If all youth had raised slogans, then our youth wouldn't have topped IAS and other competitive exams. I appeal to national media not to run such debates which can lead to hatred against Kashmiris across the country. It also hits our tourism which is a source of livelihood for a large percentage of people," Mehbooba said.
The Chief Minister stressed on collective efforts to get J&K out of the "difficult times" and "looming uncertainties."
The Chief Minister talked of "highs and lows" in the chequered history of the State and said it was only because of people's sheer resolve that J&K came out of every difficult situation.
Earlier on her arrival at the Civil Secretariat, the Chief Minister was given a ceremonial reception by a contingent of J&K Police. Members of the Council of Ministers, Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, Administrative Secretaries and a large number of employees of the Secretariat accorded a welcome to the Chief Minister.
Terming youth as an asset and a promise for better future, the Chief Minister said the youth have made J&K proud in different fields. "Be it studies, sports or competitive exams, our youth have performed so well to hold our heads high," Mehbooba said.