Srinagar, July 30: Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday strongly rejected the allegations of discrimination against Jammu and Ladakh regions during her rule, asserting that she never considered Jammu and Kashmir “different entities” and evenly distributed the funds among them.
The PDP president said her two-year tenure in power was the most difficult period of her life, which she braved to fulfill the visions of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and pull Jammu and Kashmir out of a state of anarchy.
“We did not make the alliance with the BJP for the chair. Mufti had a vision and wanted cooperation from the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi similar to what he had experienced when A B Vajpayee was in power, but unfortunately, it did not happen,” Mehbooba said, addressing her party workers’ rally, the first one after the fall of her government in June.
The BJP had pulled out from the PDP-led government on June 19, claiming that they took the decision due to the discrimination against the Jammu and Ladakh regions.
The rally, which was organised by the PDP to mark the 19th foundation day of the party, witnessed tense moments when Mehbooba, apparently feeling uncomfortable, stopped her 20-minute speech midway and sat back on her chair. She, however, resumed her address shortly from the chair itself, explaining that she “felt uncomfortable” due to the hot and humid weather conditions.
“Sayeed was in power for 10 months and I remained in power for two years and two months. We faced a lot of difficulty…”
“Only two months after coming to power, the situation took an ugly turn in Kashmir and I had to fight at both the fronts – for improving the situation in Kashmir and making Delhi keep its promise of implementing the agenda of alliance…” said Mehbooba.
The agenda of the alliance, she said, “included talks with Pakistan and Kashmiris, besides the returns of power projects (to the state) and maintaining status quo on the Article 370 which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.”
The PDP leader said she did whatever was possible for her but made no compromise.
“I never considered Jammu and Kashmir as different entities and distributed funds, colleges and jobs in police and other government departments equally without any corruption. I made no compromise,” she said.
She added her father made the BJP understand that the Article 370 is a bridge between Kashmir and the rest of the country and if it was revoked, “you will be finished”.
Without naming anyone but apparently referring to senior BJP leader and former Minister Lal Singh’s allegations that she “deliberately handled Kathua rape and murder case to create a division between Hindus and Muslims in Jammu”, she said that the rapists have no religion and those talking about the Dogra pride came in support of the ones who raped and killed a minor girl.
“It is nothing to do with the Dogras. A Dogra ruler forbids a maharaja (king) from visiting Jammu and Kashmir after he came to know that he had passed livid remarks against a local girl. This is the pride of the Dogras,” she said.
She said the PDP suffered a lot over the past three years for a “bigger cause” to pull the state out of the prevailing crisis and end the bloodshed there.
“I assure you that we will not rest till we achieve our goal,” she said.
Defending her government’s directive not to harass the Gujjars, she said after the BJP objected to the implementation of the Forest Act in the state, a committee was constituted to sort out the issue.
She said she ordered the tribal affairs department not to harass the Gujjars unless the Forest Act was enforced.
The former chief minister said “she faced a lot of pulls and pressures” over the past three years but “remained steadfast and put up with the alliance for a bigger goal of pulling the state out of the cycle of death and destruction.”
Terming the previous rule by her father from 2002 to 2005 as a “golden era”, she said it was because of the support extended by erstwhile Prime Minister A B Vajpayee that resulted into dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat conference, and the opening of the cross-border roads, besides massive developments.
Acknowledging the anger in Kashmir against her party over its alliance with the BJP, she said the BJP had got the mandate in Jammu while the PDP had secured it in Kashmir.
“We had a lot of discussion with Sayeed who said there was no other option, given the mandate to Modi and the past experience when Vajpayee was in power. His only aim was to pull the state out of the anarchy,” she said, adding that the PDP had expected the support like it got during the Vajpayee’s era but “unfortunately it did not work that way”.
“Aligning with the BJP was a difficult decision… the hatred among the Kashmiris against us on this decision was nothing short of taking poison,” the PDP president said.
She said the progress made by the PDP over the last 19 years has no parallel in the country.
“We had only one (Assembly) seat and reached 28 in 2014.”
Praising Vajpayee, she said that unlike the present regime which wanted Pakistan to first stop supporting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir to start a dialogue, the BJP stalwart visited Lahore and made the erstwhile Pakistan president to promise him that they would stop supporting militancy and the result was visible on the ground as well.
“When Mufti left the chair and Vajpayee too lost the power, the next government was formed and the peace initiative received a set back with everything coming to a standstill,” she said.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.