J&K On Sale, Residents Feeling Suffocated: Mehbooba

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PDP president Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Jammu, on Monday

Jammu: Describing the Centre’s move to nullify Article 370 and bifurcate J&K into two Union Territories last year as “desecration of the Constitution”, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday alleged that the BJP had put the erstwhile state on sale to “loot its resources” and deprive the locals of the protection to their land and jobs.

Mehbooba, who is also the former chief minister, said they will continue the fight under the banner of the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) for the restoration of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, which was guaranteed by the Constitution.

“The people in Jammu are more upset and I feel the situation here is worse than in Kashmir. They were misled to believe that Article 370 and Article 35A is a benefit to Kashmiri Muslims and its abrogation will pave the way for flowing of streams of milk, setting up of industries and jobs for the youth. Today, they are disappointed,” she told reporters here at the end of her five-day visit to Jammu — her first after being released from 14 months detention under the Pubic Safety Act (PSA).

The PDP leader said a cross-section of people, including industrialists, traders, youth, Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe and Other Backward Classes met her over the past five days and expressed their concern over the future of their coming generations in the aftermath of the revocation of special status and the newly introduced land laws, wherein people from outside can buy land in the Union Territory.

“They (BJP-led government) have not only abrogated Article 370 but desecrated the Constitution. Mehbooba Mufti talks about the flag, whether of the erstwhile state or the tricolor, it has not come from the sky or China but was given to us by our Constitution which they have snatched from us,” she said.

She said the BJP has snatched the Constitution and the rights of the people and have put Jammu and Kashmir on sale.

“They have not even left the minor minerals which were also auctioned to outsiders, snatching the source of income of the poor labourers.”

“How long they will use the power of batton to silence the people…They are threatening to book under PSA anyone in Kashmir who speaks about Article 370 and in Jammu, anyone talking about it is termed as anti-national,” Mehbooba said.

She said the people of entire Jammu and Kashmir are feeling “suffocated”.

“I am not talking about Muslims but Hindus of Jammu as well who have come to meet me and expressed their concerns. Article 370 was the effort of (last Dogra ruler) Maharaja Hari Singh and NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdulah to ensure protection of culture ad identity of the people, especially of Dogra’s.

“When we acceded to India, the accession was conditional and special status was part of it,” Mehbooba said, adding after the nullification of Article 370, the clouds of darkness have engulfed the region including Jammu and local residents are seeing their future bleak.

“The people are in distress and have suffered economically, first due to the lockdown following abrogation of Article 370 and then by the outbreak of COVID pandemic,” the PDP leader said.

Accusing the BJP of peddling “false narrative”, she said J-K was prosperous as no farmer had ever committed suicide over failed crop and every resident was enjoying a roof over his head unlike outside the erstwhile state.

“We had heard that big industrialists will come to set up their units but what about the industries which we have. Are we able to provide them the required electricity,” she said accusing the BJP of trying to auction everything available in Jammu and Kashmir.

“They have already taken away water and electricity which runs factories in the country,” she said and also questioned BJP’s silence over the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

“Kashmiri pandits were provided transit accommodation (in the valley) during the rule of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and then under the Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh. The Kashmiri pandits were waiting for BJP to come into power as it had promised them return and rehabilitation. Why the BJP is silent about them. How they will be settled?”

She also criticised the BJP of not addressing the problem of casual labourers and daily wagers and said her government had ordered regularisation of 60,000 of them but the process was stalled, forcing them to stage protests on daily basis.

Asked whether the alliance under the banner of PAGD, which also comprises several other mainstream opposition parties including the National Conference and the CPI(M), will jointly fight the Assembly polls whenever held, she said “election is not a big thing compared to the problem of J&K.”

“Elections will come and go and almighty knows the best. Today, we are fighting District Development Council (DDC) elections so that the anti-J&K forces who have divided and destroyed the erstwhile state and those who are supporting them in their divisive agenda are kept at bay,” she said.

In response to another question whether she will seek forgiveness from the communities who were denied citizen rights due to Article 370 over the last 70 years, Mehbooba said there is no question of apology.

“We do not want to usurp anyone’s rights. We want restoration of the rights given under Article 370 to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the PDP leader said.

‘BJP to meet same electoral fate as Trump’

Taking a dig at BJP governments’ policies and referring to the Bihar assembly exit poll predictions, Mehbooba asserted that “the party will meet the same fate as the outgoing US president Donald Trump.”

Days after the Bihar assembly exit polls predicted an edge for the Mahagathbandhan led by RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, the PDP chief said, I want to congratulate Tejashwi who is a young man and has set a narrative with a focus on Roti, Kapda Aur Makan (bread, clothes and house).

Accusing the BJP of misleading people and diverting their attention from real issues by playing the politics of “communal hatred”, she said, When oppression increases, it soon vanishes too.

Today is their (BJP’s) time and tomorrow, our time will come. The same thing will happen to them (BJP) what happened to Trump (who lost the US presidential election last week), she said.

Accusing the BJP of being the most corrupt party in the country, she said it would sell all the resources of the country before it goes out of the power.

Mehbooba expressed displeasure over some media houses allegedly propagating the BJP’s agenda instead of the Constitutional provisions and said it was heartening that Trump’s speech was blocked midway despite being the most powerful president in the US.

Some (news) channels, I don’t want to name them, are running BJP’s agenda and not following the Constitution. This country will be run by the Constitution which binds the people together, she said.

‘Will Hold Tricolour And J&K Flag Together’

The PDP Chief said that she will hold the tricolour and the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir together, saying as an MLA she had reaffirmed her faith in the J-K Constitution and the sovereignty and integrity of India as both are inseparable.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister had last month said that she was not interested in contesting elections or holding the national flag till the constitutional changes enforced on August 5 last year were rolled back, sparking protests in Jammu.

“We are the people, especially in the Kashmir Valley, who upheld the tricolour high over the years at the cost of thousands of our workers who were martyred,” Mufti told reporters here at the end of her five-day visit to Jammu – her first after release from over one-year-long detention under the Pubic Safety Act (PSA).

Launching a scathing attack on the BJP, besides the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) without naming it, she said, “Those moving with half pants and where their leader sits do not hoist the tricolour (at their headquarters) and they are giving us lessons on the national flag.”

She said her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed picked up the national flag when they were being dismissed as ‘insects of filthy drain’ and subjected to social boycott.

“We, including the BJP members, have taken an oath (in the assembly and council) that we will affirm our faith in the Constitution of J-K and will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India. First, it was the J-K Constitution and then the sovereignty and integrity of the country. How is it, they cut one finger and leave the other, it is not right,” she said.

Asked whether she will hold the tricolour, Mufti said, “I had already replied that I have taken an oath of the J-K Constitution when I became the MLA for the first time and I affirm my faith to the Constitution of J-K and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India – both of which are interlinked. J-K flag and Indian flag, I will hold both these flags together.”

She accused the BJP of “breaking the relations” of Jammu and Kashmir with the country by its last year’s decision of abrogating the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcating it into union territories.

“I am saying give us our flag and the Constitution back the merchandise you have looted in the daylight after conspiring under the darkness of the night have to be returned with interest,” the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president said.

She said the people in Nagaland had recently said they do not accept the flag of this country and the Constitution, why these “half pants” did not take out protest marches against them.

“When I said we will raise both the flags, they came out with protests and burnt my effigies but when the people in Nagaland are saying, there is no murmur and discussion on the television,” Mufti said.

‘Militancy On Rise Under BJP Rule’

Mufti asserted that the dialogue with Pakistan and the stakeholders within J&K and opening of cross-border roads to bring the divided parts together can bring peace and everlasting solution to the problem.

Mehbooba Mufti made the assertion while advising the BJP to take a leaf out of former Prime Minister A B VAjpayee’s book.

The former chief minister warned that militancy is on the rise in the Valley with more youths preferring militancy over going to jail after no middle path was left and voices of dissent silenced through the muzzle of power .

Attempts are being made to vitiate the atmosphere by politics of hatred and division. The people like us are facing problems to live in Kashmir due to an increase in militancy under their (BJP) rule.

They were saying militancy has finished but the reality is that at least 10 to 15 youth are joining militancy from each village, Mehbooba told reporters here at the end of her five-day visit to Jammu.

It was her first visit to Jammu after release from 14 months of detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) following the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last year.

She said the militancy is on the rise because you (BJP) have silenced all the voices and not left the middle path for the people. The youth is thinking of two options — whether to go to jail or pick up the gun — and he chooses later to get killed rather than going to the jail.

Mehbooba said the situation on the borders is of concern to the people as local residents are living under the constant threat to their lives due to the continued cross-border shelling.

Asked how it is possible when there is no let-up in Pakistani shelling and mounting civilian casualties, she said, We have to pick up a leaf from former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s book.

Despite the Kargil war and Parliament attack, he entered into a friendship with Pakistan as a result of which the militancy had come down and the border firing also had stopped, she said.

We have to take a leaf out of that book and start a dialogue with them (Pakistan) and with the stakeholders in J&K. When we can hold eight rounds of talks with China which martyred our 20 soldiers and we did not even raise our finger, she asserted.

We are talking to them to seek one inch of our land, though they have occupied 100 square km of our land. Why this double standard? They should remember Vajpayee who is also their mentor and act upon his policy book, Mehbooba said.

She said both sides of Jammu and Kashmir are ours. We have to open the roads to bring the two parts of J&K together and look for an everlasting solution to the J&K problem so that peace returns to the region and China, which is showing aggression, stops.

Mehbooba said she wanted J&K to become a bridge of peace and friendship between India and its neighbours.

The border residents are facing problems every day due to cross-border firing and are unable to work in their land.

The PDP leader said her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had a vision of opening cross-border roads between the two parts of J&K like Suchet Garh-Sialkot, Srinagar-Kargil-Skardu, Nowshera-Mirpur and Kotli and the solution to the problem lies in the dialogue.

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