Won’t contest polls till Article 370 is restored: Mehbooba Mufti

Statehood is not our demand, says PDP president

December 07, 2021 09:50 pm | Updated 09:50 pm IST - New Delhi

Disempowered: Former Jammu & Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti addressing a press conference.

Disempowered: Former Jammu & Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti addressing a press conference.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said on Tuesday she will not contest elections till Article 370 is restored in Jammu and Kashmir. She added that statehood was not their demand.

The former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir said the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was part of the agenda when the PDP formed the Government in the erstwhile State in alliance with the BJP in 2015. Ms. Mufti claimed that the BJP had assured her while forming the Government that it would not touch Article 370 till they were in power.

The BJP pulled out of the alliance in June 2018. Since then, Jammu and Kashmir has been under Central rule.

On August 5, 2019, the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was read down by Parliament and the former State was bifurcated and downgraded into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Ms. Mufti, who was interacting with journalists at the Indian Women Press Corps here, said, “The present Government is running the country with a colonial mindset. Unfortunately, J&K has become a laboratory for their experiments... Gandhi’s India has become Godse’s India. The pillars of democracy — the judiciary and the media— are watching silently.”

She said that post August 2019, the situation had deteriorated in Kashmir Valley. “The middle ground is obliterated, statehood is not our demand. When the Prime Minister met us [in June], media treated us as separatists. Mainstream parties cannot sell tea, they don’t allow us to campaign. Article 35A and 370 were removed unconstitutionally, only J&K Constituent Assembly is allowed to do that. It was a black day. They could do this because of brute majority,” she said.

She said the delimitation exercise was part of the Government’s divisive agenda. “When in rest of the country, delimitation cannot happen till 2026, why are they doing so in J&K? It is part of their divisive agenda. Nothing will happen if we join the process, they are not listening to people who have joined the process. They want to increase seats in some regions and organise seats in a way that there is division of votes in the majority community — Muslims, Kashmiris, Gujjar — they want to further divide the society,” she said. J&K was the only Muslim-majority State in the country.

“Of course we [the party] will fight elections, we are not going to cede any space to them,” Ms. Mufti added.

She said that after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, she had written to him, but it was not regarding the political process. “We had written to [the PM] for the release of [political] prisoners, but the suggestions were never heeded,” she said.

On the several petitions against Article 370 that were pending in the Supreme Court, Ms. Mufti said the media and the judiciary had let them down.

“If a civilian has been killed and I want to go and meet the family, they lock my house ... it is stifling. It is not possible to protest, that is why I sat on a protest at Jantar Mantar yesterday [Monday],” she said.

She said the jails in Jammu and Kashmir were full, and they were now sending people to jails in other parts of the country.

“People think we are agents of New Delhi, they have a negative feeling ... see what India has done to us, we have been disrobed and disempowered. In Haryana, they have localised jobs, in Himachal, non-locals cannot buy property,” she said, when asked about the disenchantment among the Kashmiris.

Asked if she was in favour of talks with Pakistan following the recent killings of a Kashmiri Pandit, a Sikh school principal and non-locals in Srinagar, Ms. Mufti said, “The State Government and the agencies had information about their killings. Had it been any other part of the country, the godi media would have questioned them and held them accountable…Vajpayee visited Pakistan twice. When you [Government] can speak to China that has occupied our territory, then why get irritated when it comes to talks with Pakistan?”

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