On TV, Mebooba Reveals What She Refused To Delhi

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by Zafar Aafaq

SRINAGAR: Almost a fortnight after being humiliatingly pulled down by her ally BJP from the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir, PDP president broke her silence. She flew to Delhi and faced the Adaalat of a TV channel, years after she campaigned against their lopsided coverage of Kashmir she was ruling.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh addressing a joint press conference with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mebooba Mehbooba Mufti at her Fair View residence in Srinagar, 25 August 2016. KL Image: BILAL BAHADUR

However, she has made a series of revelations suggesting that she skipped executing certain things that Delhi was so keen about doing in turmoil-hit Kashmir. These included a crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami during 2016 uprising; closing down the barter trade and unleashing NIA on certain people.

She said she was given a list of Jamaat affiliated 80 persons by the Central government that time but she refused to conduct crackdown against them.

“I will not conduct a crackdown on a party just because it is called Jamat-e-Islami,” Ms Mufti said on the show that was aired by India TV on Saturday. “Jammat-e-Islami is an organization like there are other organizations in the country. If there is a proof against a person of wrongdoing then he can be arrested. There was no such proof against those 80 people to arrest them. The list was prepared on the basis of hearsay.”

Mehbooba Mufti was chief minister of state from March 2016 to June 2018. Her rule ended after the coalition partner Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) withdrew support on June 19.

The 2016 Kashmir uprising saw a strong state response: More than 100 civilians were shot dead, thousands were maimed and scores blinded due to use of pellets being fired from hunting guns. Nearly five thousand Kashmiris, young and old, were arrested and a number of them were slapped with the controversial Public Safety Act. Some of them are still in jails including a father son-duo from Jamaat background. Kashmir spent that entire summer under a long curfew and shutdown. BJP credited PDP for killing more militants in last three years than the previous NC led government killed in six years.

When asked by Rajat Sharma, the anchor of the show, whether she was soft on Jamaat because they supported and voted her in elections she said: “There is nothing wrong in them exercising their right to vote.”

On the frequent raids by the counter-insurgency forces on militant families, Mehbooba said, “I am not in support of terrorizing families because their sons are militants or they are affiliated with Jamat-e-Islami.”

Mehbooba criticized the arrest of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Chief Syed Salahuddin’s son by NIA, India’s premier investigative agency.

“There is no evidence of his sons resorting to stone pelting or using guns. One of his sons is in jail in Delhi from six months and he is not being granted bail,” Mehbooba said. “The family received Rs 3 lakh from Salahuddin for the treatment of his wife. When the case reaches a level where the bail is being granted, the judges of the court are changed.”

She admitted she stopped NIA from arresting his other son. “They are citizens of this country and want to live a normal life,” she said, insisting, “They cannot be penalized for the actions of their father.” Salahuddin’s family lives in Saibugh village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Ms Mufti referred to the case of Sajad Lone who switched to unionist camp in 2014 and his brother is still a separatist. “We cannot torture the children of Sajad Lone or Bilal Lone because he was a separatist or his brother is a separatist,” she said. Lone, a BJP ally, was a minister in her cabinet. “If father drinks, or is a drug addict or a rapist, it necessarily does not mean his kids will go against him,” she said.

“It is unbecoming of the government to drag a woman from Kashmir to Delhi like this,” Ms Mufti said on the recent shifting of incarcerated Dukhtaran-e-Milat chief Asia Andrabi to Delhi by NIA. “You are arresting and bringing Kashmiri women to Delhi, how can it work. We (the State government) should have been allowed to deal with her case; I got her arrested it seems you don’t trust us.”

When asked why she backed the recent unilateral “Ramdhan ceasefire” which according to BJP posed a threat to “national security”, Mehbooba said the ceasefire was announced to provide relief to common public from daily violence and bloodshed. “This ceasefire was not announced for the benefit of militants,” she insisted.

Reiterating that the gun was not the solution to Kashmir issue, Mehbooba said: “I don’t think the killing of militants will resolve this issue, otherwise Vajpayeji (former Indian Prime Minister) would not have visited Lahore and started a dialogue with Pakistan.”

“I believe Jammu and Kashmir should become a bridge between India and Pakistan and not a source of dispute,” she insisted almost reiterating the party position, many think she forgot in the Chief Minister’s office. “Pakistan has a role in Kashmir issue since 1947. You fought three wars with Pakistan, you conducted “surgical strike”, there is a war going on in Kashmir for past 30 years but that has not resolved Kashmir issues so dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat is the way forward.”

“When Modi visited Kashmir we had expected he will deliver a positive message from there for the whole country beset with the “condition of lynching” but he did not meet our expectations,” Mehbooba said while referring to the increased instances of Muslims being lynched by cow vigilantes for eating beef.

She accused the NIA of insisting on shutting the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad barter trade route on the pretext that “drugs and money for terror activities flow in from Pakistan via this route.” She said she opposed it and warned of agitation in case the route was closed. She said if that were the way to deal with the problem “then Wagah- Attari route in Punjab should be closed first because most of the drugs and illegal stuff comes into the country from that route.” she revealed that she had sought installation of body scanners at the entry points but that did not happen.

Mehbooba Mufti in a TV show for the first time after losing power in June 2018

Insisting that Kashmir needs the restoration of all trade routes, the former chief minister advocated that Kashmir should be allowed to join China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), among other trade routes to give an economic boost to the valley. “Kashmir has to be made India’s show window, this is what Nehru wished,” she insisted. This goes in contradiction with the official policy in Delhi that CPEC should be used to isolate Pakistan in the region economically.

CPEC is a flagship investment program in which China will develop infrastructure in Pakistan in return for access to the Arabian Sea.

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