Calling on Pakistan to live up to its promise to not support militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said Friday that her state would continue to suffer if a “conducive atmosphere” is not created for talks between India and the neighbouring country.
Mufti also urged J&K Police to make efforts to ensure the return of Kashmiri youth who have joined the militancy or have gone missing and give them education, and “bats and balls in their hands instead of guns”. She said that “black laws” like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will have to go once peace is achieved, and militancy and infiltration has ended.
Speaking at a Police Commemoration Day function in Srinagar’s Zewan, Mufti underlined the legacy of former prime minister A B Vajpayee in ensuring peace and said there should be good relations between India and Pakistan because J&K is the “worst affected” when there is a war-like situation.
“Pakistan, too, has to help us in that and it has to understand that we have to live and die together. Our borders are very close to each other and we are identical people,” she said.
Placing the onus on Pakistan to ensure that cross-border infiltration does not take place, Mufti said, “In the time of Vajpayee, for the first time, Pakistan said it will not allow its land to be used for anti-India activities. There was ceasefire on the borders, militancy was down and there was less infiltration. But unfortunately, that process did not move forward.”
Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated over the last few months and any talk about dialogue was not possible, she said. “So, I understand that if we can create a conducive atmosphere, then a way can be found. We have an interest as the biggest impact of a tussle between India and Pakistan is on J&K,” said Mufti.
“Our prime minister (Vajpayee) went there (Pakistan). Now they have to repeat the promise of (then Pakistan president) Pervez Musharraf to not support the militancy in J&K and help in creating a conducive atmosphere for dialogue,” she said.
“Our commitment is for dialogue among all and Vajpayee’s policy that we cannot change neighbours and need to have good relations with Pakistan… If we want, and we should want, that our country and Pakistan should have dialogue, then that decision has to be taken here (in India) and not there (in Pakistan),” she said.
“Pakistan will have to understand that we have to live and die together, we are similar countries. We want better relations between the two because whenever there is an atmosphere of war, its impact is on J&K. See, there is a fight on whether to show a film or not, but trade continues on the Wagah border,” she said, referring to protests over the release of the movie “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” for featuring a Pakistani actor.
Seeking the support of police and security forces for restoration of peace in J&K, Mufti said her party PDP joined hands with the BJP to creative a conducive situation for dialogue.
“If we want peace and the situation to improve in J&K, we need to collectively work for that. Dialogue is needed to establish peace and we cannot force anyone to hold talks on the basis of guns, batons and stones. Dialogue is only possible when the situation is good and conducive. Our agenda of alliance has a commitment that we will hold dialogue with everyone in J&K,” she said.
Suggesting a roadmap for calming tensions in the Valley amid the protests over the killing of militant Burhan Wani three months ago, Mufti said that police should reach out to youth in Kashmir.
“The children who have gone from their homes… they may have picked up guns or not, but are missing from their homes and want to join militancy. They are small boys and I request our policemen to try if they can return to their homes,” she said.
“If it is possible, the local boys who have gone (to join the militancy) in past two, three or four years, who are missing… instead of getting them killed in encounters, if they can be brought back to their homes and made part of our mainstream. If we can give bats and balls in their hands instead of guns and give them education. Resolving this issue is the work of elders,” said the Chief Minister.
On the revocation of AFSPA, Mufti said that “black laws” will have to go but added that a peaceful atmosphere and an end to militancy was required. “I know that today the situation is not such but tomorrow, a year after or two or four years after we have to repeal AFSPA. We cannot keep it in force forever,” she said.
“We have to create a situation so peaceful in J&K — by ending militancy, infiltrators — that we can slowly remove the AFSPA initially from a few areas and then others,” she said.