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Need to replace idea of ‘Azad Kashmir’: Mehbooba

Srinagar, Dec 14: Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti Friday said there was a need to replace the idea of ‘Azaad Kashmir’ with a better one within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

Addressing a seminar ‘Kashmir – The Way Forward’ at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, Mehbooba said, “We need to replace the idea of Azad Kashmir with a better idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. We cannot go back to 1947, we have to move forward.”

Mehbooba, who led the PDP-BJP coalition government for over two years, said governance was only possible when there is peace.

“Thank God we are living in a democracy where people are allowed to vote and not cows,” she said.

“Kashmiris are the sufferers. Till when will our people keep witnessing this farce of people getting killed? Youngsters are taking up the guns. A 17-year-old boy who played a role in Hyder movie and 14-year-old boy recently got killed after they took up the arms.”

Referring to her coalition government with the BhartiyaJanta Party (BJP) in 2014, Mufti said it was a “suicide”.

“We put everything at stake because we hoped that Narendra Modi will pick up where Vajpayee Ji had left. Unfortunately, Modi ji could not rise to the occasion. Like Vajpayee, we invited him to address a gathering of around 30,000 people in Srinagar. Instead reaching out to people, he said he did not need anybody’s advice. We (Kashmir) are sufferers. If he does not listen to us, whom will he listen to?” she asked.

She said there was a total “distrust and disconnect” between people of Kashmir and New Delhi Delhi.

“They look inwards or outwards (outside the border) for support. During the time of Vajpayee, the people of Kashmir thought of him as a leader who cared,” she said.

“Even Pakistan responded positively resulting in reduction of militancy and ceasefire. Between 2002-05, it was the golden period of Kashmir, since for the first time the CM of Kashmir and PM of India were on the same page. Even Mirwaiz Umar, Yasin Malik, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat went  New Delhi and met Vajpayee.”

She asked New Delhi to make Kashmiris its integral part instead talking only about the land.

“Vajpayee did not hand over Kashmir to Pakistan but he realised the pain of Kashmiris. But the Indian leadership is only stuck that Kashmir is an integral part of India without talking about its people. New Delhi has to make Kashmiris its integral part.”

While her party is losing more people in last few days, including former cabinet ministers, Mehbooba said she felt that SAARC countries were being held hostage to the animosity between India and Pakistan.

“For example, why can’t we have a SAARC Handicrafts University in Kashmir?” she asked.

“India is never an issue during Pakistan elections. However, that is not the case in India. It is for the country to rise up, reach the Kashmiris and find a solution. All the SAARC nations must come together and make Jammu and Kashmir a model of cooperation.”

“Unfortunately, the media which is an important stakeholder in this discussion, is only adding fuel to the fire. The shaking of fists and shouting at one another is not representative of the real Kashmir. We need to change the discourse,” she said.