CM’s plea to Delhi: ‘Win people’s hearts, lift AFSPA from some areas’

Taking Delhi’s line on Kashmir unrest, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday lashed out at Pakistan for allegedly instigating youths in Kashmir to take up arms, saying it has to change its policy, and asked the Centre to revoke AFSPA on trial basis from selected areas as a beginning towards "winning the hearts" of people.
CM’s plea to Delhi: ‘Win people’s hearts, lift AFSPA from some areas’
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Taking Delhi's line on Kashmir unrest, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday lashed out at Pakistan for allegedly instigating youths in Kashmir to take up arms, saying it has to change its policy, and asked the Centre to revoke AFSPA on trial basis from selected areas as a beginning towards "winning the hearts" of people.

"Today when a Kashmiri child takes up gun, they (Pakistan) call him leader and say he is doing good, but when their own children, some from madrassas etc take up gun, they attack them with drones and hang them in military courts. I feel Pakistan, which is viewed by people of Kashmir with sympathy, has this time committed excess. If they instigate our children to pick up gun and then say you will become our leader if you get killed in encounter, then I think they need to change this policy,"  Mehbooba told reporters here.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister was speaking on a day she met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who took stock of situation in the Valley where 50 people have died and over five thousand civilians and security personnel have been injured in clashes that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

"Pakistan says that we are victims of terror, their 146 children died in school attack in single day and people fear to go inside their mosques," Mehbooba said, hitting out at the neighbouring country for allegedly encouraging violence in Kashmir.

The Chief Minister said there is a need to take "bold measures to address the issue as the people of Jammu and Kashmir were our own".

She said there was an opportunity not just for the whole country but for Pakistan as well to have a dialogue and address the issue.

Mehbooba said a start has to be made from somewhere to improve the situation in the state and suggested revocation of AFSPA from some areas, beginning with 25 to 50 police stations, as an experiment.

"As far as AFSPA is concerned, we were not saying that it should be revoked in one go. But, as a test case, on experimental basis, if it is revoked slowly and it can be seen how the situation remained in such areas. If the situation remained well, then it should be revoked entirely or it can be reimplemented if you feel that militancy did not allow it to be revoked," the Chief Minister said.

"The start has to be from somewhere, the experiments have to be from somewhere like it (AFSPA) be revoked from 25 or 40 police stations to see the reaction," she said.

The controversial Armed Forces Special Forces Act gives immunity from prosecution and other legal proceedings to the armed forces and PDP and opposition National Conference have been demanding its revocation.

Mehbooba said her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed took two month to forge an alliance with the BJP and made an agenda of alliance to show a way to take J-K "out of the morass and that cannot be done only by money or packages".

"There are some issues like dialogue, peace process, winning hearts of people here," she said.

"I hope the Home Minister, whose statement in the Parliament was very good, he tried to reach out to the people of J-K, that has not been missed here. I think today we have an opportunity, for the whole country as well as for Pakistan, that if they are really our well-wishers, then they should talk," she said.

Mehbooba said there are lakhs of kanals of land under security forces, which they do not need now and should be returned for civilian use.

"If you return them to us, we will construct colleges, universities or parks so that people feel that our situation is improving as security forces were moving backwards and institutions and recreational facilities are being constructed there," she said.

The Chief Minister also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise visit to Lahore in December.

"It was not an ordinary gesture that the Prime Minister of a country goes like that, but unfortunately then Pathankot happened and because of that the process was stalled."

The Chief Minister regretted that the political process started by her father and Vajpayee was not taken forward and held politicians responsible for stalling the peace process in the state.

"I firmly believe in what (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee said that you can change friends but not neighbours, so till the time both the countries do not keep good relations and improve the situation, neither they nor we can progress. Our Prime Minister had made a beginning by going to Lahore. That is the only way to remove poverty in both the countries and take Jammu and Kashmir out of the morass," she said, adding the fate of state and the country are intertwined.

"The political process started by Sayeed from opening routes to healing touch, somewhere that has stopped and only governance and development were talked about and to what limit that happened, that is again a matter of discussion.

"The roadmap by Mufti and Vajpayee that borders cannot be changed but made irrelevant so that people move across and there is trade. Former PM) Manmohan Singh also took the process forward but the political process, the dialogue process, which started with L K Advani and the separatist leaders here, was not taken forward," she said.

"Some buses move from here, some from there, but the communication, banking facilities, exchange of students, doctors and civil society, which should have been there, so that we see what is there and what problems they have and they can come here, but that did not happen," she said, adding, "the politicians are responsible for it".

"The governments here, be it the NC-Congress government before ours, or the UPA in Delhi, we all are responsible for this that we think the situation has to be normalized whenever it is bad, but we forget once the situation is normal," she said. 

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