Terming local militants as "sons of the soil" and "our assets", former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said on Tuesday that it was "imperative" to talk to the militant leadership to "put an end to the bloodshed" in Kashmir.
Talking to media-persons on the sidelines of a PDP convention at Dak Bungalow here, Mehbooba said: "It has been my stand right from 1996 when I joined politics that we need to talk to militants. The time has come when we should initiate a dialogue with the militant leadership as talking to them is as important as talking to other major stakeholders like Pakistan and separatists. They (militants) are the ones carrying guns and they alone can stop the bloodshed".
Mehbooba also termed the local militants as "our assets".
"They (local militants) are the sons of the soil and our assets. We should come forward to save them," she said.
The PDP president also termed the sedition charges filed against seven Kashmiri students in the 2016 JNU sedition case as a "political gimmick", saying: "Like the Congress sent Afzal Guru to gallows out of turn for political reasons, the same is being repeated by the BJP as the Lok Sabha elections are nearing."
On National Conference's assurance of setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to probe killings in Kashmir if voted to power, Mehbooba said: "We would welcome any such a move but the question is whether NC and Farooq Abdullah really mean what they say. It was in their rule from 1996 to 2002 that Task Force was formed, POTA and other draconian laws were passed and Ikhwan culture was encouraged. And despite having a two-third majority, the party could not pass the autonomy resolution," Mehbooba said.
"If the party could not live up to the promises in the 70 years of its rule, how can they do so now?" she asked.
Mehbooba said that during NC's rule "many fake encounters took place like the Pathribal fake encounter when Farooq Abdullah was the CM. Then Machil fake encounter took place during Omar Abdullah's tenure".
"In our tenure from 2002 to 2005 we ensured that POTA is withdrawn and the Task Force and Ikhwan rule are ended," she said.
Meanwhile, Mehbooba cautioned the government of India that any tinkering with the "special status" of Jammu and Kashmir "could turn the already strife-torn state into a veritable inferno and will bring more violence, chaos, and destruction".
A PDP spokesperson said in a statement that addressing scores of delegations in southern Anantnag district on Tuesday, Mehbooba said that the emergence of the PDP in J&K was "like bursting forth of a new revolution and the party since its inception has been striving for people's dignity and honour on all fronts".
"Jammu and Kashmir as part of the republic secured its unique position and same cannot in any way be contested in any court of law. Article 35-A is a matter of life and death for us. No one has the authority to challenge the very identity of people of the state in any court across the world. It is high time that the central government passes a direction, declaring Article 35-A, off limits. This sword cannot dangle over our heads all the time," Mehbooba said, according to the statement.
She said those launching assaults on state's integrity on multiple fronts "shouldn't live with the notion that they can any longer terrify people of Kashmir with such tactics".
She said that no battle is won by "training the guns against the innocent people" and "instead of turning Kashmir into a theatre of war, the government of India must initiate reconciliation with Pakistan, dialogue with Hurriyat and declare a truce on the borders".
The PDP president, according to the statement, said the "core agenda of my party has always been to facilitate a political process and not just to form a government".
"When for the first time PDP came to power in 2002, dialogue with the separatists was initiated. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan from Srinagar and created history when he said that one can change friends but not neighbours. He even promised to resolve Kashmir within the ambit of humanity, opened the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote roads. There were also two rounds of dialogue between the Centre and the Hurriyat Conference and such confidence-building measures put the violence-infested Kashmir subtly back on the track," Mehbooba said.
She added that when 2014 polls accorded a fractured mandate to all political groups of the state, PDP made an unpopular decision of forming the government with the BJP "with the sole aim to get the state out of the era of uncertainty and chaos".
"The party was hopeful that PM Modi would behave like Vajpayee but he didn't and that was a letdown. When in November 2015, a rally was organised by the PDP for Modi, people had come on Mufti Sahib's call to listen. However, Modi didn't rise to the occasion and things started falling apart," Mehbooba said.
She claimed the BJP ran away from the government last year "only because PDP remained consistently firm on its agenda and refused to sign on the dotted line". Mehbooba remarked further that "in spite of medley of internal troubles in the coalition, the PDP compelled the government of India to withdraw thousands of cases against the stone pelting youth, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was made to announce a unilateral ceasefire with Pakistan and offer dialogue with Hurriyat".