NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Sept 29: The Peoples Democratic Party described its agenda of self-rule as freedom
-an alternative to Azadi.
“I have no hesitation to say that the people of Kashmir are for Azadi. In Jammu, a number of regions are for Azadi. In Ladakh one district
seeks union territory status and the other has sympathy with Kashmiris,” said Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP president while launching its membership drive. She took an oath to spread the self-rule message across the state, particularly among the educated class.
However, Mufti said, PDP’s self rule seeks freedom for people of Jammu and Kashmir to do business through historical routes including silk route, to have power to exploit its water resources, to have its elected governor and to have a joint mechanism with the Pakistan Administered Kashmir to run the affairs of the Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Kashmir.
However she said the self-rule would restore the historical position of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in 1947 without disturbing the sovereignty of India and Pakistan. She said partition of Jammu and Kashmir, disintegrated the state and with it its roads and business relations were cut off with the rest of the world.
“Kashmir had business relations with Iran, Central Asia through Jehlum Valley Road and with Tibet and China through Ladakh,” she said. She described the PDP’s self-rule as freedom that would be an alternative to the Azadi voice. She said
She emphasized that it would unite the two Kashmirs and open up the world to the people of the region without changing the borders. “There are 20 seats lying vacant for Azad Kashmir (in J&K Assembly) and time has come when these seats needed to be filled. There must be a joint council,” she said.
She said PDP raised the slogan of peace when no one was talking about it. “Today it is easy for everyone to talk about good relations between India and Pakistan. But we talked about it even days after Kargil war when the atmosphere was different,” she said.
She said self-rule had internal dimensions as well. “It means the Article 356 should not be invoked in the state and the governor should be elected,” she said. The PDP president talked repeatedly of the water resources saying time had come when Kashmiris should have freedom to decide over state’s water resources. “PDP is for this freedom as an alternative to independence.”
She said Mughal Road, though a dream of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, was realized by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. During its rule, the PDP had planned a tunnel across Simthan pass to have smooth road to Doda, proposed a tunnel for Gurez and supported devolution of powers.
“There should be Development Councils for Doda, Kishtwar, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch,” she demanded.
Presently, she said, there were 20-28 lakh kanal under the occupation of troops in the state. “Even in Zabarwan area where it is impossible for civilians to raise construction, army is openly raising buildings,” she said. She described massive military presence contrary to self-rule and called for demilitarization from civilian areas.
She launched a scathing attack on National Conference accusing its ‘fickle’ leadership of being responsible for the trust deficit between New Delhi and Kashmir. Without naming Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, she said the NC leaders remained in jail for 22 years and then compromised for power.
Mehbooba said PDP would ‘never take people towarda path and later describe it as political wilderness.’ She however emphasized that the PDP has not raised a rebellion. “Instead we are for restoring the historical position of the state as it existed in 1947,” she said.
In her address, Mehbooba compared the PDP’s self-rule with the autonomy plan of National Conference and said the latter as a concept was aimed at settling issues between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir only. The NC, she said, has always used the autonomy plank to get into power.
The PDP would be issuing cards to its prospective members on which the party has explained its self-rule concept.
MUFTI MUHAMMAD SAYEED:
Later former chief minister and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed addressed the gathering. He first dealt with the issue of mistrust between New Delhi and Srinagar. New Delhi, he said, should first ask itself why Kashmir went far away from India.
He cited examples of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, saying in both states regional parties were ruling since 1967 and the Government of India has not disturbed them. While quoting Z.A Bhutto that India has survived due to chaos and confusion of democracy, Mufti said “the chaos of democracy” was not allowed to function in Jammu and Kashmir. “In 1953 a police officer had two orders in his hand for the Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah- one of his dismissal and second of his arrest,” he said.
Mufti called for a change in the mindset and said in 2003 security agencies were against operation of mobile service in Jammu and Kashmir, apprehending its misuse. He said the PDP convinced the then telecommunication minister Arun Shorie and the then Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee that mobiles wouldn’t create any security problems. “Today BSNL earns highest revenue from Kashmir,” he said. He said people were craving for passport in Kashmir and the chief minister, instead, was gloating over one passport he has issued to someone. Mufti said issuance of passports shouldn’t be any problem. He said when he campaigned for opening Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road many apprehended it won’t be opened. “But it did open and changed the perceptions,” he said.
He revealed when Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road was opened a Hurriyat leader had met the then prime minister and told him “had you opened the road through us, lakhs of people would have been on roads to welcome the bus service.”
He described opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road as a great leap forward and said it would bring many changes in the region. He however cautioned against playing with the identity of people and described people as real sources of power and cited the last year’s protest against the transfer of forest land as an example. “It was a struggle of people for their identity,” he said.
Mufti described self-rule as an evolutionary process and urged his party leaders to take it everywhere. He described his 21 MLAs as mujahideen and said he called them so ‘because they would raise the voice of people in Assembly and continue to raise voice for justice outside it.’
He said self-rule means that president of India should not negate the verdict of people by using the tool of Article 356. He described demilitarization as withdrawal of forces from civilian areas. “The demobilization shouldn’t be construed that we are against army,” he said.