Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Friday that “the real secular DNA of India” is not going to change, and that she had total faith in it. She also suggested that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) should “take a back seat” in its action against separatists in the Valley, to facilitate an atmosphere for talks. Speaking at the Express Adda on Friday, Mufti said, “The DNA of India is not going to change. It is secular and I have faith in the people of the country, and that is the reason we chose India and aligned with a party. It is a historic experiment.” She was responding to a question on the PDP’s decision to align with the ideologically opposite BJP in the state. The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group, and features those at the centre of change. On the recent NIA raids in the Valley, the CM said, “To supplement the talks, the NIA should take a backseat.” The federal investigating agency early this year registered an FIR into terror funding and stone-pelting incidents in the Valley and has so far arrested nearly a dozen suspects, including several second-rung separatist leaders. “Ideally they (the NIA) should stop, but I was told that these actions, arrests were initiated earlier,” Mufti said.
The Centre recently designated a special representative, Dineshwar Sharma, to hold dialogue in Kashmir. The CM questioned the call to scrap Article 370, a position supported by the BJP. “What can you achieve by scrapping Article 370? You cannot win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It will make matters worse. We have the land, we need to win the hearts of the people,” she said.
Mufti said, “Democracy is a battle of ideas, and dialogue is the only way forward. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an unprecedented mandate and can create history by changing the narrative on Jammu and Kashmir… Article 370 is the nation’s commitment to the people of J&K and therefore should be honoured.”
On the agenda of alliance (AoA) between the BJP and PDP, Mufti said, “When we made an alliance with the BJP, we were also trying to reach out to the country… The AoA is not between the BJP and PDP, it is between the people of (rest of) India and people of J&K. The Muslim-majority state aligned voluntarily with India. J&K is unique, we have minorities within minorities. When we aligned with this nation, we were promised the uniqueness will be maintained. It’s not a matter of territory. What will you achieve by scrapping 370? There is so much of (security) forces in J&K. They have so much land with them…” Mufti said.
The CM, who spoke at length on the appointment of a special representative for talks, said that for the first time, the government of India has officially owned up the dialogue process. “Let’s give him (Sharma) some time. He is experienced, honest and will be able to do justice. He has authority, which was never there before. The President has ratified his appointment. This is the first time such a stature has been given to somebody.”
She compared Sharma’s appointment to the previous interlocutors sent by the UPA, saying they didn’t have an official position. On a Kashmiri man being tied to an Army jeep and paraded across villages to “quell protests”, Mufti said it was “a mistake committed by one officer”, and that “the entire Army, which is the most disciplined force in the world” can’t be held responsible for it.
However, she said, to “glorify this act was wrong”, and blamed the media for it. “That mistake was committed by one person. He had no right to do it. But it was glorified, that was the worst part. That was totally wrong.” The CM accused the social media and media of only negative coverage on Kashmir. “Our problem is that the media, most of the channels, all the time talk about what promotes terrorism rather than our heroes. We have heroes too… The media is not helping in reconciliation. If such media was there in the 1990s, J&K would not have been with us today.” She invited the audience to visit Kashmir. “All of you have stopped coming to Kashmir. Your visit will achieve more than any government interlocutor ever can. Every tourist is an interlocutor of the nation.”
On a question regarding standing up for the national anthem in a theatre, Mufti said, “These things should best be left to the people. When I was a kid and used to go to a movie hall, everyone used to stand up for the national anthem. Nobody asked us to do so. It should not be forced.”
Asked about the ‘azadi-self rule-autonomy’ debate, Mufti said self-rule is an idea within the Constitution of India, and that the idea of azadi should be replaced 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 said.
About the selection of Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh CM, Mufti said his party had won. “This is the beauty of democracy. It is the power of democracy that Yogi (Adityanath) can become the Chief Minister of UP.”
About meeting PM Modi, Mufti said she meets him whenever required. “I meet PM Modi often. I find him very open and down-to-earth, who communicates in simple language. He has been very considerate.”