Force cannot bring peace in Kashmir and governments should take risks for it, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “uninvited” visit to Lahore was one such risk but unfortunately it was followed by a terror attack in Pathankot, she said.
According to Mehbooba, who was speaking at the Ideas Conclave organised by India Foundation, a think tank of which patrons are senior BJP leaders, the peace measures taken by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee led to de-escalation of tension for almost 10 years. “Force alone cannot change the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It requires the government to take risks just as PM Modi visited Lahore uninvited. It was statesman-like,” she said.
She said the idea of India would be incomplete without Jammu and Kashmir. “There is helplessness but not hopelessness….You can’t use force against your own people. There is the NIA, there are security forces with which you can fight infiltration and militants. But not with your own people,” she said, advocating peace initiatives in the Valley.
“Jammu and Kashmir is under siege…. There is mental siege, emotional siege and economic siege,” she said, adding that people of Kashmir are not opposed to the idea of India with Kashmir. “When we think of Kashmir, we should not think of Pakistan. Because Kashmir is ours,” Mehbooba, who heads a coalition government of her PDP and BJP in the state, said.
About the alliance, she said when her father, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, decided to join hands with the BJP, it surprised everyone. “Even I asked him, ‘would it not be suicidal?’,” she said, adding that her father maintained that “the BJP is a nationalist party and if we are able to convince them, they would do anything and everything to take Kashmir out of the mess.”
She reiterated that the state needed the entire country’s backing to remain the crown of India. “Jammu and Kashmir could be the gateway of India,” she said.
Asked if the situation in Kashmir would be different had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, become the first PM, Mehbooba said the state was and is a Muslim majority state. “We should not punish the state for choosing to stay with India. It is not about Nehru or Patel. It was a decision that it will be a crown and a showcase. Let it stay a crown and do not crush it.” She also said her government was committed to bring back and rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits.