The largest opposition party of Jammu and Kashmir, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Wednesday said that the revelations made in the Government of India report on the Army payments in Kashmir has not come as a surprise to people of the state but has shaken whatever faith they had been able to retain in the democratic system of the country.
“These revelations might be sensational on their face these are only a confirmation of what an ordinary citizen of the state always held as a belief that everything in the state is maneuvered and remote controlled by powers outside the system, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said in a press conference.
She added, “There are still many of us left who don’t fall into that category of trustworthy Indians but the way the issue has been projected paints everybody in one black colour.”
Mehbooba said that the contents of the report are an insult to the people of the state that they are sought to be engaged through dubious means including bribing their representatives. “It seems we are not treated as people with aspirations or political preferences but a class whose loyalties can be purchased through money and political favours,” she said adding “Instead of allowing democratic process and institutions to flourish as in other parts of the country we are told in 65th year of independence that it is the security establishment and their shady methods that run the place and keep it for the country. It comes as a shock that the establishment should treat only those people as worthy of country’s trust that are on their pay roles or are receiving favours.”
PDP president said that the expose is of course sensational but more shocking is the response from various quarters in the country. “No one in the discourse has disapproved of these methods or denied their existence but justified them in the national interest and are upset only on their becoming a public knowledge saying they are justified in national interest. “They are not worried that a state that joined India in the hope of becoming part of a vibrant democracy should still be governed through undemocratic means,” Mehbooba said adding “they are worried as usual about the fall out of these revelations and criticise the exposé rather than the facts of it.”
Mehooba said, “There is not a single voice that has risen in favour of the people of the state who have been subjected to denial of human and democratic rights in world’s largest democracy.”
Mehbooba alleged that the ruling National Conference (NC) is now trying to use the exposé as a fig leaf to cover its atrocities in 2010 that left 120 dead. “But it was this government that by its own admission investigated those cases and arrested thousands of youth. Most of them are still facing police cases. Criminal proceedings and FIRs against them have destroyed the career of about ten thousand young people.”
Mehbooba said, “Those who were gunned down by police and security forces were dubbed as criminals, anti nationals, drug addicts and paid agents. Now the ruling party is singing a different tune. One can ask the government what is the worth of its investigation and charge sheets. What action is it taking against those who have been party to the alleged conspiracy and the motivated investigation?”
She said PDP had maintained then, as it maintains now that the state government killed innocent people who demanded justice. “We also maintain that the youth framed in cases of waging war against the state or stone pelting are innocent and need to be compensated. The state government must withdraw all cases against them and tender an unqualified apology to them and families of the dead,” she said.
Mehbobba said that the revelations need to be investigated through a credible institution even though the facts that have come out in GoI report are enough to establish that these methods are a part of the Kashmir policy of government of India. “The state has been reduced to a security enterprise which is fuelled by two input: money and political patronage,” Mehbooba said adding “Instead of taking people of the state on board by allowing democracy to flourish and giving them a sense of empowerment the state has been left to the ways of establishment that claims trying to win hearts and minds through a bunch of middlemen.”
Though the information coming forth in the last few days has exposed the stinking ways of dealing with Kashmir but the government of India could convert this into an opportunity to make a fresh start with the people of the state. “It is now clear that the methods adopted in the past have failed to work. Instead of pursuing the same line and trying to cover up the excesses committed so far it is time for a fresh beginning. We demand that a new chapter of trust and democratic freedom be started in the state,” Mehbooba demanded.
“The way to our hearts does not pass through middlemen and bribes, subsidies and economic packages. Winning hearts in present circumstances would look too ambitious but a modest beginning could be made to build some credibility in the system by taking some visible measures,” she said adding “the people of the state be reassured that their vote will be treated as sacrosanct and it would not be managed, maneuvered or rigged to unseat one party or install another.” She said that the security or political establishment of the country should stay away from playing patrons or promoting favourites in the name of national interest. The siege around the state be lifted and trade and travel with the world around us promoted. The persecution of Kashmiris, especially the youth in and out of the state should be stopped. The water and power resources of the state that have been taken away from us be restored rather than trying to project the state as a basket case that needs doles and charity rather than its legitimate share from the national resources.
“In that context we also reiterate our demand made first in 2007 that AFSPA that has created an environment of impunity in the state be revoked, the presence of armed forces in the civilian areas be reduced with the ultimate aim of restoring the full authority of civilian and democratic institutions,” she said and added “the areas, mostly of tourist importance, that are under the occupation of the armed forces and security forces be vacated and developed for the economic progress of the state.”
“National Interest is dear to us also but it should not mean denial of justice to the ordinary citizen of the state. National interest should not subsume other legitimate processes in the state. And that is the only way that army or the establishment will not need to dole out favours or money for winning hearts and minds,” Mehbooba concluded.