Jammu and Kashmir chief minister urges protesters to give her chance to address crisis

Kashmir is in the midst of its worst unrest in six years; close to 70 protesters have been killed over the last 7 weeks and hundreds have been left blind by pellet gun fire. In photo: Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti. Photograph:( Others )

DNA New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 28, 2016, 05.50 AM (IST)
Chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday insisted that people give her a chance to address the crisis in the state. 

“I appeal to all those protesting in the streets. You may be angry with me, I may be angry with you. But please give me one chance to address your concerns and aspirations,” she said.

After her 45-minute-meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, Mehbooba told DNA that she had outlined a three-pronged action during the meeting.

It included the involvement of separatists and Pakistan in a substantive dialogue. But she refused to divulge details.

Mehbooba said that good governance in her state was linked to peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. “How can you govern and undertake development-related work when there are tensions?” she said.

On this front, she blamed Islamabad for not responding to Modi’s peace overtures.

"PM Modi reached out to Pakistan, went to Lahore, but then Pathankot happened. Home minister Rajnath Singh also went to Islamabad. Unfortunately, Pakistan has repeatedly given up the chances to talk and resolve the issue of violence in Kashmir. Now, it is again time for Pakistan (to respond)," she said.

Only Modi can revive the process, she said. Mehbooba, however, skirted questions on the PM’s recent pronouncements on Balochistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (PoK).

Fifty seven-year-old Mehbooba, mother of two and one of the few women politicians from Kashmir, said she asked Modi to put in place an institutionalised mechanism to address the issue. “I asked for reviving the reconciliation and resolution process, which was initiated by the then NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee between 2002 and 2005,” she said.

It was the brushing of issues under the carpet, as in 2008 and 2010, that has resulted in the current unrest, Mehbooba said. “The country’s political leadership must commit itself to address all dimensions of the problem in a manner that balances and promotes enduring political and economic stability in the state and the region,” she said.

She expressed confidence that the escalating tensions would not derail the scheduled South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit and the PM’s proposed visit to Islamabad.

She also appealed to all political parties to help resolve the problems and not make the state a discussion point during their election campaigns. An “all-party delegation will visit the state soon to reach out to the people,” she said.

Mehbooba, who single-handedly built the edifice of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to challenge the monopoly of mainstream National Conference (NC) said the Agenda of Alliance enacted between her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the Prime Minister has a commitment to normalise the relationship with Pakistan.

(This piece first appeared in DNA)