Maintaining that violence has only brought miseries to Kashmir and is not a means to seek resolution of problems, Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said a solution can only be found through democratic and political means involving engagement and dialogue.
“Time has come for the leadership of the country and the State to fully retrieve the people of Jammu & Kashmir, with honor and dignity, from the political uncertainties they are engulfed in for the past seven decades,” the Chief Minister said while addressing the main Independence Day function at Bakshi Stadium here.
“The notion that creating disturbances and fueling violence will lead to resolution of the problem is completely misplaced as Kashmir underwent perilous phase of violence in early nineties leaving behind a scary trail of death and destruction. Have we achieved anything out of that gory era of bloodshed and devastation?” she asked. She said neither the stones nor the guns either in hands of the militants or the in the hands of security forces would enable a peaceful solution of the problem.
Ms Mehbooba said violence only deprives and devastates the people of opportunity and a better life and resolution lies in democracy, dialogue and development. “The dialogue and reconciliation is, and remains, the only way of settling any disputes, be it regional, territorial or indigenous conflict,” she said and added that the people of the State, irrespective of their age, gender, status or the political affiliation, have been suffering the disastrous consequences of the turmoil and they have to be retrieved from this quagmire. “As a confidence building measure we will have to reach out to the people of the State, irrespective of their political affiliations,” she said adding; “My sole objective is to end the pain and miseries of the people of Jammu and Kashmir once for all and strive for their larger political empowerment and inclusive prosperity.”
Expressing deep anguish over the loss of precious human lives in ongoing unrest, the Chief Minister said although no measure on earth can heal the deep wounds of the victim families, tangible confidence building measures could to some extent restore the hurt psyche of the people and salvage their bruised dignity. “We have to reinforce the resolve to work through peaceful means and through public participation towards restoration of peace in the State,” she said and added that an effort has to be made to reach-out and engage all sections of the society in a productive dialogue process and revive intra and inter-state confidence building measures to resolve the issues. “If we can’t find our solution in the world’s biggest democracy, we won’t find it anywhere else,” she said.
Calling for a political will and broader national consensus to address the issues confronting Jammu and Kashmir, Ms Mehbooba said elements of sanity, common sense and pragmatism should be picked up to strike a new benchmark in the State in light of the global and sub-continental realities. “I assure you that there will be decisive movement forward on political, economic and developmental fronts in coming days, transforming Jammu and Kashmir into a politically stable and economically prosperous state,” she said and asserted that substantive measures would be taken on political, economic and developmental fronts to address the aspirations and concerns of the people. “It won’t be like 2008 and 2010 unrests when political and other delegations came to Kashmir without anything substantive being done,” she said and added; “My government’s endeavor is to start a meaningful initiative so that there is no repeat of situations like today every five or 10 years.”
Calling for reverting back to the ‘Healing Touch Policy’ that was put in place by the PDP-led government in 2002, Ms Mehbooba said the then Government headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had between 2002 and 2005 not only created a sense of security among the people but also restored dignity of the common masses by pioneering and implementing substantive peace and reconciliation measures within the State and across the border. “The combination of political, developmental and diplomatic approach after 2002 elections and the atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir as well the world around it transformed almost unrecognizably,” she said and added that it could not have happened without the statesmanship displayed by the leaders of NDA and its successor UPA. “The same spirit will have to be invoked now to come out of the crisis faced by Kashmir,” she said and expressed the hope that the assertion of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi that he will pursue the agenda of Insaaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat on J&K as outlined by the then Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee will set the momentum for a fresh initiative on Kashmir. “We hope that the efforts put in during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime would be taken to logical conclusion now under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make peace and stability a reality in the State and the region,” she said.
Ms Mehbooba said while on the external front right environment for peace has to be created through Indo-Pak engagement, on the internal front a broad-based political process has to be started involving all sections of the society. “There is no cut and die or a ready-made formula to resolve the issues confronting Jammu and Kashmir, but a solution will only come through an evolutionary process,” she said and added that the peace and reconciliation process has to be started within the state and the region, sooner the better.
Exuding confidence that walls of hatred between India and Pakistan would fall one day, Ms Mehbooba said people-to-people contact between two nations is already showing hopeful signs and it needs to be expanded further. Making an impassioned appeal to all political parties to sink their political differences for the larger objective of achieving peace in J&K, she called for a consensus among all political parties within and outside the state for restoration of peace in the State and revival of peace process in the region. She asked the Pakistani leadership to join India to bring peace to the region. “If you love J&K, scrap the borders, bring J&K and PoK together and make the region an example of SAARC unity,” she said and added that the agenda of SAARC countries cannot be attained unless both India and Pakistan unite for a common cause of development.
Describing her efforts to transform the situation in J&K as a big challenge, Ms Mehbooba said she wanted her government to make all possible efforts so that nobody has a justification to resort to violence. “There is no scope for delaying any further a meaningful and bold response to what has now developed into a moral, political and humanitarian challenge for this billion plus nation,” she said and added that the crisis of Kashmir has not to be viewed as a mere geographical or strategic problem but has to be recognized as a painful issue that has to be resolved with dignity and respect for a people with a proud and distinct cultural identity and aspirations.
Ms Mehbooba said the youth are pivotal to restoring peace and prosperity in the State. “I am openly seeking the support and understanding from the youth of Kashmir to stay away from any activities that might jeopardize their safety and well-being,” she said adding; “I would also like to request the parents to counsel their children and help them make the right decisions especially amid charged atmosphere.”
“While politics would evolve and the dust will settle on the ground, can we get back what we have already lost? This loss is of unspeakable magnitude, much bigger then what we think of. The precious human lives lost; people who have been injured, the economic loss and even a single missed school day of our children is unthinkable. How will we answer them in future?” she asked.
“While the societies around us are gaining empowerment through education, ironically our children are being left disempowered by depriving them of education as some people believe that education can wait, but agitation cannot, that chaos on streets is more important than sending children to school,” she said and added the politics of settlement is for the elders to decide and not for the children. “I want to see our children in IITs and IIMs, not on the streets pelting stones. I have a dream of seeing them in central university, not in central jail. Whom are we going to hold responsible for the loss of our children?” she said and added that while no Government on earth would like the people to face the bullets and pellets, but it has to at the same time safeguard the interests of those who are not a part of the agitation.
Ms Mehbooba said distressed by the recent violence, the parents were running away from Kashmir alongwith their children to ensure better education for them in a safe environment. “While the affluent and the middle class can afford to send their children outside the state for education, it is only the wards of the poor who will suffer because of the massive academic loss,” she said.
The Chief Minister said she had taken an initiative to withdraw all the cases against the youth involved in 2008 and 2010 unrest to safeguard their future. “But some people want to keep them in perpetual darkness and are forcing them to resort to violence again,” she said.
“It is important for every stakeholder of this place to understand, do we want to see the fifth generation of Kashmiri youth pushed into chaos,” Ms Mehbooba said and added that her Government wants to take Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s ‘Healing Touch’ policy forward to pave the way for with peace, prosperity and inclusive development of people this region. “People of Jammu and Kashmir are not bad, nor is India bad. Somewhere mistakes were made with regard to J&K by the successive leadership in New Delhi and the parties in the State which resulted in alienation of the people here,” she said and added that a new beginning has to be made to bridge the gap.
Emphasizing that any propaganda like, attempts to erode the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is false, Ms Mehbooba urged the people to give her time so that she could work on the plans and programmes she had charted for peace and progress of the state.
The Chief Minister hailed the state administration including the doctors and other employees who kept on serving the people despite facing difficult situations. “I commend the efforts of all such employees who ensured timely treatment of injured, supply of essentials like electricity, drinking water, rations and other commodities amid prevailing situation,” she said.
Earlier, the Chief Minister unfurled the National Flag and took salute at the march past presented by the contingents of J&K Police, CRPF, Fire & Emergency Services, Home Guard, BSF, SSB, Forest Protection Force, ITBP, SDRF and NCC. She also inspected the guard of Honor presented on the occasion.
Chairman Legislative Council, Haji Anayat Ali, Ministers, Advisor to Chief Minister, Members of Parliament, Legislators, Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Administrative Secretaries other dignitaries, officers and large number of people were also present.