Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday reiterated that Article 370 is the nation’s commitment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and therefore should be honoured. She tweeted this statement shortly after addressing a gathering at Express Adda organised by The Indian Express in New Delhi.
During the event, when asked about the ‘Azadi-Autonomy’ debate at Express Adda, Mehbooba Mufti said autonomy is an idea within the Constitution of India and that we need to replace the idea of azadi with a better idea. “There is a misconception that Autonomy or Self-rule is anti-national… It’s all in the Agenda for Alliance,” she said. “What after (even if we chose to be) separate? We need to have a plan of action, need self-respect, then a bright future,” Mufti added.
The autonomy debate took centre stage after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram raked up the issue last month when he pitched for greater autonomy for the restive Jammu and Kashmir, drawing stinging criticism from the BJP. He had told reporters in Gujarat’s Rajkot, “The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect the letter and spirit of Article 370, that means they want greater autonomy. My interactions in J&K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all… the overwhelming majority, they want autonomy.”
Talking about the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the chief minister said it has improved since last year but cautioned that media discourse today is not good for Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. “A section of media is not helping in reconciliation. If such media was in there in 90s, then J&K would not have been with us. Many news channels are not helping in reconciliation but adding to the problem,” she said.
On the recent appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the interlocutor for dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti said he’s an honest and straight-forward person who needs to be given some time. “Let’s give him some time to operate. He has worked in Kashmir, he’s a straight-forward and honest person. He has an authority that was never there before.”
Mufti was also asked about PDP’s coalition partner BJP. She reminisced her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s commitment to the BJP, saying she didn’t want to let him down. “I worked hard for my father because he had a vision beyond Jammu and Kashmir. He believed in the idea of India. He also had a commitment with BJP. So I didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t want to make a U-turn. I have faith in the DNA of this country.”
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership in the scheme of things, Mufti said it’s an asset and that he’s a very down-to-earth person. “I found him very open, down-to-earth. I find it easy to talk to him. He has been considerate and reassuring.”