SRINAGAR, JUNE 30: Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said reconciliation between India and Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir will put the State on the trajectory of development and usher the South Asian region in a new era of peace and prosperity.
Speaking on the concluding day of the Budget Session 2016-17 in the State Assembly this afternoon, Ms Mufti said the agenda of her Government is to nudge the two nuclear-armed countries towards starting a meaningful dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir so that the three-decade period of violence in the State comes to an end and the region enters into a new era of peace and prosperity.
“A fruitful dialogue between India and Pakistan took place during my father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s first tenure as the Chief Minister of J&K in 2002. After the change of the then PDP-led government, no progress was made and all the measures taken to restore peace in the State were pushed into oblivion. So the Opposition need not remind us what we have to do,” the Chief Minister said.
Ms Mufti said a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir is part of ‘Agenda of the Alliance’ of the Coalition Government which is a comprehensive document for resolution of all issues faced by the State. “If we want peace and prosperity in J&K and if India and Pakistan want to prosper, it will not happen by waging proxy wars or direct wars, or allegations and counter allegations, it will happen if the two countries sit around a table and resolve their differences,” Ms Mufti said.
The Chief Minister said a large chunk of population in both India and Pakistan living in abject poverty don’t get access to basic amenities like healthcare and education. “The budget spent by two countries on purchasing arms can easily be diverted to building social infrastructure and helping the poor and disadvantaged if the two countries resolve their differences,” Ms Mufti said.
The Chief Minister said the two countries have been engaged in hostilities over the last six decades on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “These hostilities make the people of J&K their prime targets. But my Government is looking for a way forward. In a meeting with the then Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L K Advani, the Hurriyat leaders had agreed that they will come up with a roadmap for resolving the vexed Kashmir issue. We want the process of dialogue and reconciliation started again so that peace is restored in the State. I am not greedy for chair but my sole ambition is to pull out people from the vortex of violence and address the issue of underdevelopment in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
Lauding the parliamentary system of democracy in India, Ms Mufti recalled the words of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulfkar Ali Bhutto, that if India is thriving, despite her inherent contradictions and challenges, it is because of her democratic traditions.
“Now see what is happening in countries where democracy has ceased to exist. Full-blown wars are going on in Syria and Libya. The blood of innocents is being spilled. Although people in these countries are free as individuals, they don’t have the freedom to make choices for themselves. In a true democracy, individuals should get that right to decide his or her future which is what makes India such a great country,” she said.
Defending the Coalition Government, the Chief Minister said it was the vision of her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to reconcile the differences of opinion between Jammu region and Kashmir valley. “Somewhere there is a perception that what is good for Jammu may be bad for Kashmir and vice versa. It is a difference of perception and it was the vision of Mufti Sahab to bridge these differences,” she said.
The Chief Minister said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has stabilised to a large extent and the culturally distinct regions of the State are coming closer to each other since the Coalition Government assumed office. “When the issue of SRO 105 surfaced, the BJP leaders were the first to raise their voice because they are concerned for the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir. We have learnt to accommodate each other and we will learn from each other by committing mistakes,” she said.
Ms Mufti said the PDP-BJP alliance was formed keeping in view the larger welfare of Jammu and Kashmir. “Mufti Sahab was not worried about the chair. He was concerned for the future of Jammu and Kashmir, about the people living in far flung areas who haven’t tasted the fruits of development, about the youths who have been caught in the vortex of violence. We didn’t consider the aspirations of Kashmir only but Jammu region as well. It is the result of his vision that today the BJP members are more worried about communal tension in the State and it is their responsibility to keep the communal harmony intact,” she said.
Condemning the recent attacks on security personnel in Kashmir, Ms Mufti said such acts send a wrong signal about the situation which can have grave consequences on the overall economy of the State. “These attacks have not yielded anything in past, despite so much bloodshed, and they will not yield anything in future. They only bring bad name to Kashmir. The month of Ramadhan calls for self-control and restraint. By indulging in such senseless acts of violence, you are showing contempt to this Holy month. Whether a CRPF man dies, a civilian is injured or a militant gets killed, it only perpetuates pain and suffering on the families and in the society,” she said.
The Chief Minister said the government has issued strict orders to the security forces to exercise maximum restraint while dealing with law and order situations. “It is because of this restraint that the situation in Frestbal near Pampore where eight CRPF personnel were killed, didn’t spiral out of control. I am proud of those personnel who laid down their lives for the safety and security of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
Clarifying her remarks on the clergy, the Chief Minister said it is the social and moral obligation of the religious scholars who issue sermons in mosques to inform and educate people about the social evils prevailing in the society.
“I am proud to be a Muslim. My remarks on clergy were distorted to suit a particular narrative. My only regret is that in our society which has been gravely affected by social evils like drug addiction, corruption and environmental degradation, our clergy shies away from talking about such issues in their sermons. What stops them from issuing sermons on our dying water bodies, the menace of dowry and unabated use of polythene? Clergy commands respect in the society and they should discuss social evils in their sermons to motivate the people to wage Jihad against such social evils,” she said.
Expressing dismay over legislators’ repeatedly raising in the House the issue of a senior IAS officer allegedly involved in suicide attempt, Chief Minister said the lawmakers should have discussed more pressing issues like drug addiction than dwelling into the personal lives of the officers.
“For God sake don’t reduce the sanctity of this house by raising such petty issues,” she asked the legislators.
“The legislators should have raised and debated drug addiction and consumption of liquor,” she said.
“I recently visited Makhdoom Sahib (RA) shrine, the locals pleaded with me to do something about the menacing drug addiction in the area,” she told the house, “worst is the situation in Jammu.”
However, the Chief Minister, at the same time directed politicians and bureaucrats to maintain “distance between their private and public lives”.
“Don’t get your private lives into public,” she told addressing legislators and bureaucrats. “Have some control on your actions,” she added.
Towards the conclusion of her speech, the Chief Minister appreciated the role of media during the Budget Session. “You have brought some vital issues of public importance into the notice of this House and I am deeply grateful for that. A lot of work has to be done in J&K and I will need your support in pulling out J&K from its present situation. You report what you want to but please base your stories on facts, because you help us in correcting wrongs and your work is important for the larger welfare of the society,” she said.
The Chief Minister also expressed gratitude towards the Legislative Assembly Speaker, Kavinder Gupta, Deputy Speaker, Nazir Ahmad Gurezi, staff of the Assembly Secretariat, Information Department, IT Branch of Assembly and other officials for smoothly conducting the proceedings of the House for 35 days.