Terming dialogue as the only way to get Jammu & Kashmir out of the cycle of violence and uncertainty, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti today hoped that the appointment of an interlocutor by the Centre would help in creating a congenial atmosphere for a way forward in the State. She said exploiting the geo-strategic position of the State and opening it up to outside world would herald a new era of prosperity and growth in the region.
Participating in an interactive session-Express Adda-of a leading national daily here today, the Chief Minister said dialogue with all stakeholders in the State is the dire need of the hour to end bloodshed, acrimony and hatred besides heralding growth of business, trade and economy. “For how long can we go like this?”, she asked while stressing on a sustained dialogue process to end the violence and miseries of people of the State, whom she described as the worst victims of this tragedy.
Welcoming the Centre’s decision to appoint an interlocutor to take on dialogue process ahead, Mehbooba Mufti said for the first time such an engagement by the Centre has properly been formalised at the highest level. She hoped that with an illustrious and unblemished track record at his back, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma would be able to steer ahead the process to a substantive conclusion. She also underlined the need for supporting this process by all agencies and not do anything which would disturb the ambience of the dialogue process. “It is all the more important to include all those people in the dialogue process whose ideas about the State are different from ours”, she added. Similarly, she said, both India and Pakistan have to learn to live like good neighbours and resolve all differences through peaceful engagement and reconciliation.
Terming Article 370 as a bridge of faith between the State and rest of the country, the Chief Minister said it is also a historic commitment people of the country made to Jammu & Kashmir people when the Muslim majority State voluntarily acceded to an egalitarian society of the country. She however regretted the misconception among certain sections in the country about the special position of the State.
On her vision about the State, Mehbooba Mufti said she wishes to make Jammu & Kashmir as the most happening place in the country with more positive actions, investment, trade and business activity. She said the geo strategic position of the State needs to be channelized by opening all historic and trade routes of the State, thereby making it the gateway to Central Asia. “This can really change the world for our people”, she said adding that the impact of opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road has led to demands of opening more such routes in the State like Jammu-Sialkote.
On the alliance of her Party with BJP, the Chief Minister said it was a historic decision not aimed at Government formation but getting Jammu & Kashmir out of the turmoil and distress and the Agenda of Alliance clearly lays down a roadmap for this. “It was a reach out to the whole of country given the massive mandate Prime Minister got in the last elections”, she said adding that a leader like Mr. Narendra Modi, whom she described as very considerate on many occasions vis a vis Jammu & Kashmir, has the mandate and courage to change the course of history.
Terming the role of a section of national media as very critical in the context of the State, Mehbooba Mufti said media needs to build a positive and reconciliatory narrative on the State. “We have many success stories among youth in the recent past to follow. They did wonders despite turmoil around but it never got the national media’s attention. Tajamul Islam, Zaira Wasim, IAS toppers, sports icons, Rhodes scholar Samir Rashid etc but they did not get as much the attention of the national media as the stuff that promotes hatred”, she said. “Some sections of national media, unfortunately, choose people of extreme opinions which brings confrontation in the society”, she said while advising the national media to play a constructive, even though critical, role while discussing the State and sensitise itself about the pain, tribulations and miseries of the people of the State.
The Chief Minister said the situation in the State has improved considerably since last year and sectors like tourism and trade have started to pick up pace. She said she has directed the security establishments to prefer the return back of local militants to the social mainstream to their killing.
Replying to a question on rising incidents of intolerance and other hate crimes in the country, Mehbooba Mufti said the common citizens are as tolerant and accommodative as they used to be before. “The DNA of this country would not change. That is why we chose to be with India which is as liberal as any other society in the world”, she said adding incidents of hate crimes bring disrepute to this tolerant ethos of the country.
On her impressions about the people of the State, the Chief Minister described them as a grateful lot. “Even a small favour you do to them, they would acknowledge it gleefully”, she said while narrating many anecdotes from her public life of past two decades or more to drive home the point.
On the issues facing the current polity of the country, Mehbooba Mufti said that it is high time that Women’s Reservation Bill is given a proper thought by the Parliament. She laid stress on the social empowerment of women alongside their political and economic empowerment. She said a value system to respect women needs to be inculcated among the children to put an end to atrocities on the womenfolk.
Terming youth as her passion to work for, the Chief Minister said she intends to give them a better and secure future. “I have worked with them since long. I need everybody’s help to save them from becoming victims of an uncertain situation. They are full of energy and talent and I want to channelize that for their and society’s betterment”, she said.
The interactive session was attended by politicians, mediapersons, public policy analysts, academicians, retired civil servants and other informed groups of the society.