WITH THE AAP under fire from the BJP after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sought proof of the surgical strikes conducted by the Army at the LoC last week, Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra hit a shrill note on the Kashmir issue at Pragati Maidan on Tuesday, alleging that terrorists receive help from the local population in the Valley.
Speaking at the launch of Bharat International Travel Bazaar (BITB), Mishra also asked J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who was present on the dais, whether she considered Burhan Wani and Afzal Guru terrorists or not.
The Tourism Minister’s outburst — AAP-ruled Delhi is the city partner of the event — left the organisers, guests and tourism executives red-faced.
It was finally left to Mufti to lower the heat as officials from the J&K delegation interrupted Mishra. “Leave it, I will reply,” she told her officials. The organisers also intervened, asking Mishra to avoid the Kashmir issue. But by then, Mishra had decided to leave. “I cannot share the stage with her (Mufti). Excuse me, I have to leave,” he said.
Addressing the gathering later, Mufti responded to Mishra by raising the issue of security of women in Delhi. “We need you (tourism companies) more now, today. It is the safest place in the country. Girls in my state can travel alone and safely, be it Pahalgam, Jammu or any other region. There is no fear of rape. Rape in a moving car, what was he (Kapil Mishra) talking about? My God,” she said.
Mufti also recalled a visit by Pakistani journalists to Kashmir university where they witnessed students staging a protest. “They came back and complained that the students simply returned to their classes after the protest. They said there were policemen present who did nothing. They asked, ‘What kind of democracy is this’? My father replied with pride that this is Indian democracy,” said Mufti.
“To recreate that conducive environment, Kashmir needs you now more than ever. It is the safest place,” she told the audience.
Tuesday’s flare-up happened after Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma had launched the event by speaking about a financial package for Kashmir.
After Sharma left the venue, AAP Minister Mishra rose to speak. “Mahesh Sharmaji so proudly shared the news of a Rs 500-crore package for Kashmir. Kashmir is our pride… but at the same time, terrorists are treated like tourists in Kashmir,” he alleged.
He then asked the audience whether the terrorists involved in the Baramulla attack on Sunday could have escaped without help from Kashmiris.
“Kissi ne unko apne ghar mein bithaya hoga… kissi ne toh shelter di hogi.. kissi ne toh chupaya hoga (Someone must have housed them, given shelter to them, hidden them). We need to ask this. It cannot go on like this. They (Kashmiris) are citizens of this country. Who should we fight — our own people or outsiders?” asked Mishra.
The Delhi Minister then turned towards Mufti. “Before leaving, she needs to tell us what she thinks of Burhan Wani? We can fight terrorists and Pakistanis, but how can we fight people giving shelter to them? On November 25, 2015, the Pakistan flag was hoisted at the house of Mufti. When Burhan Wani was killed, she said that if we knew about him we would not have let him be killed. He was a terrorist or not, this needs to be known. You cannot deny that he was a terrorist… and you can’t speak of Afzal Guru and tourism at the same time,” alleged Mishra.
It was at this juncture that officials from the J&K delegation and the organisers stepped in.
But Mufti, who had managed to keep her composure during the face-off, broke down as soon as she reached the dais as a video of her father and former J&K CM, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, started playing in the background.
“I was in two minds before coming here. But then, I thought what would my father have done. I said ‘no way’. I will go, for my Kashmir,” said Mufti before responding to Mishra’s allegations.
Wani was killed by security forces in the Valley on July 8, and Guru was hanged in February 2013 after being convicted for his role in the Parliament attack of 2001.
Mishra, meanwhile, stuck to his guns while speaking to reporters later, saying that he also wanted to know Mufti’s opinion on the JNU students who organised an event earlier this year when anti-national slogans were allegedly raised and whether she would say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
“I asked perfectly valid questions. Even (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat would second them,” said Mishra, when asked if his views were endorsed by his party.
The Minister also alleged that it was the Mufti family that brought terrorism to the country.
“When Mufti’s (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) daughter (Rubaiya) got abducted (in 1989), that was when they brought terrorism to the country. This family is the harbinger of terrorism. They do not call Afzal Guru a terrorist. And why did she cry (at the event)? It is the mothers of India who are crying today,” said Mishra, adding that Mehbooba Mufti “will no longer be a terrorist supporter if she once praises Mother India”.
Mishra also hit out at the BJP for supporting the PDP government in J&K. “The BJP succumbed to Mufti’s pressure and let the JNU students go unpunished. The BJP has to answer why it is supporting a party that supports terrorists,” he said.