Will Not Contest Elections Till Article 370 Is Restored: Mehbooba Mufti

SRINAGAR: A day after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stressed on Friday that before elections, the government needs to reach out to people and restore their shattered confidence. She also declared she would not contest polls until Article 370 was restored and if her party won, she would not be Chief Minister.

“I won’t fight any election until Article 370 is restored. Otherwise they will say I am doing it for political gains. But my party does not want to leave any democratic space or it will be taken away by other forces. If the party wins, there are other senior leaders. I will not be Chief Minister. I want to send message to my people that it is not a mere slogan for me,” NDTV quoted Mehbooba as saying.

The three-hour meeting was PM Modi’s first outreach to mainstream Jammu and Kashmir leaders who have been fiercely critical of his government’s decision to scrap special status under Article 370 and downgrade the state into two Union Territories in 2019.

“Before elections we need Confidence Building Measures as people’s confidence is shaken, they are shattered. They are depressed…you need to reach out to people first, elections can wait,” Mehbooba was quoted as saying by NDTV.

“We thought we will be able to get some confidence building measures, maybe we will be able to give some relief to people. That is why we felt it was important to go (for the meeting).”

“Killing militants is maybe the success of security forces but not the success of a government. You have to address why young boys are picking up guns. Once you bury a militant in a graveyard, that boy’s body becomes Pakistan for everybody. The flag on their grave becomes a Pakistani flag. We have to address that, reach out to people… we have to stop this,” NDTV quoted Mehbooba as having said.

“The underlying disquiet needs to be addressed. I am not against elections. You need to have elections but before that you need confidence building measures. They have demoted J&K from special status. They have dismembered and demolished the state. They have not only demolished 370 but the trust of the people. First restore 370 and 35A (defining special privileges in jobs and land rights of permanent residents of J&K), then hold elections.”

“If the siege is lifted, people are not harassed, students and journalists are not harassed, people are not picked up… I know this is happening elsewhere in the country too, but these confidence-building measures must be done before something can be done,” NDTV quoted Mehbooba as saying.

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