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Need to replace idea of ‘Azad Kashmir’: Mehbooba

Mudassir Kuloo

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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.

 


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Lead Stories

Phase II LS Polls: Srinagar PC records 14% turnout

District-wise: Srinagar 7%, Budgam 21%, Ganderbal 16% ;
Boycott, shutdown, clashes witnessed; 70% turnout in Udhampur PC

Mubashir Bukhari

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency Thursday sided with poll boycott as merely 14.1% voters exercised their franchise in the constituency where elections were held in tight security.

In the 2014 general election, Srinagar had witnessed a turnout of 25.86 per cent which fell to 7.2 per cent in the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll.

Udhampur Constituency, on the other hand, witnessed 70.1% turnout during the day.

 

The polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir “remained peaceful and incident-free”, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told reporters here.

Kumar said Srinagar district recorded the lowest turnout of 7.69 per cent while Reasi district in Udhampur constituency recorded the highest of 73 per cent among the nine districts where polling was conducted Thursday in the state.

Ganderbal district recorded 16.7 per cent while in Budgam district, the turnout was 21.5 per cent, the CEO said.

According to sources, as many as 90 polling booths, mostly in downtown Srinagar, saw no voting. Srinagar constituency had 1,716 polling stations.

As per reports, at least 25 youth and government forces’ personnel were injured in clashes in several parts of central Kashmir.

A constable of Armed Police Vipon Kumar of 5th battalion was injured after being hit by a stone during clashes at Charar-i-sharief in Budgam, Head Constable Hafizullah was injured at Kakaring Charisharief, Head Constable Ghulam Mohammad of IR 4th, constable Sajad, constable Rahul Malik and three CRPF men were injured in Beerwah Town.

Similar reports of clashes were reported from Machowa, Kralpora, Hafroo, Chadoora in Budgam, Srinagar’s Safakadal, Nowabazar, Gojwara, Hawal, Batamaloo and some parts of Ganderbal including Mammar Kangan and Barsoo.

The government forces deployed in these areas used tear smoke shells, pellets and few aerial shots to disperse the protesting youth during which eighteen persons including a woman were injured.

Among the injured, one youth namely Mohammad Asif Bhat sustained a bullet wound in his thigh at Hafroo Chadoora and was immediately taken to nearby hospital from where he was referred to Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Meanwhile, the internet services were suspended in poll-bound districts of Valley since Tuesday night while as the speed was throttled elsewhere in Kashmir.

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MHA suspends cross LoC trade

‘Route illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics currency’

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Srinagar, Apr 18: The Government of India Thursday suspended trade along the Line of Control at Salamabad and Chakan-da-bagh in J&K stating that the routes were used for “inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency”.

According to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the action was taken after the Ministry “received that cross LoC trade routes in J&K are being misused by Pakistan based elements. The misuse involves illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics, and currency”

It said the cross-LoC trade mechanism is therefore suspended till a stricter regulatory regime is put in place. “This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it said.

 

The trade was part of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan and was started in October 2008.

The Cross LoC routes — Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawalakote route in Jammu division — which are being used to ferry goods between J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). More than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both the routes.

Mehbooba, Omar flay decision

Former state chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, on Thursday criticised the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to suspend cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayee ji. Won’t be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted soon after the MHA ordered the suspension.

Omar Abdullah too reacted: “The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBM. Cross-LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt to facilitate greater people-to-people contact across the Line of Control in J&K”.

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‘I voted to get a passport and see my son in Pak’

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Apr 18: As the elderly seemed enthused by the idea of electing a representative in Srinagar parliamentary elections, many of them had their own distinctly apolitical (and probably unachievable) expectations from the voting process.

This reporter Thursday visited various polling booths of the uptown areas here. A posse of gun totting CRPF personnel guarded all of them.

In one such booth in government girls’ higher secondary school Rajbagh, a frail woman walked in. A young man held her arm as she slowly walked towards the booth where the voting machine was set up.

 

Clad in a light pink salwar kameez and a ruffle shawl, the woman was limping her way (probably due to tender ankles or knees) to the actual booth.

She had her own motherly reason to take this painful walk. 

Misra Begum, 70, a resident of Ikhrajpora said her primary reason to vote was to get a passport and travel documents to see her son in Pakistan.

“My son crossed the border for arms training twelve years ago but he never came back and is now settled in Pakistan. More than a decade has passed and I am yet to see his face,” she said.

“I am dying to meet him. At least once before I close these eyes forever, I want to see my son again. My only purpose of casting a vote is to get me a passport and the travel documents,” Misra said.

Misra’s eyes twinkled as she stared at this reporter. It seemed she even expected this reporter could do something to end her wait and help her meet her son.

Like Misra, 70-year-old Abdul Majeed Shah too voted to bring his sons back. 

“I am casting a vote to bring my sons home,” said Majeed, heaving a sigh as he sat on his haunches in the lawn of Chanapora higher secondary school.

 “Both of my sons have finished their degrees and were jobless and in great distress. With no option left, they left Kashmir and are now working in other states,” he said.

“My wife suffers from paralysis and I also suffer from multiple ailments. We want our sons to be around us in this age but what to do? We are helpless. I am hopeful that a new CM and party will bring happiness in our lives,” Majeed said, apparently not knowing the difference between Parliamentary and Assembly elections.

Shameema Begum, 60, who seemed to have respiratory problems as she talked, had a more text-bookish answer when asked why she voted.

“Why should I waste my fundamental right to vote? We need good roads, and uninterrupted electricity supply. There are so many problems that can only be addressed by good leadership,” she said in a panting voice. 

Shameema, however, gave a puzzled look when asked about the threats hovering on Article 35-A and Kashmir’s special status.

 “I don’t know what that is. I only believe we can get our basic facilities when we cast a vote,” she said.

At the polling booth in Burn Hall school of Sonwar Constituency, Ghulam Nabi, 56, sat on the wooden bench while talking animatedly with a local police man.

“For the last four and half years, PDP-BJP has done absolutely nothing for the state. Look at the condition of the roads and how the youth of the valley are suffering in absence of any employment,” said Ghulam, who is associated with Tourism sector.

“Dr Farooq Abdullah is the only leader who can truly represent the aspirations of the people and resolve the Kashmir issue,” he said revealing that he, like many, was a staunch NC supporter.

Another man in his early seventies overheard the conversation and was desperate to chip in. He spoke in a hoarse voice, “Ghulam Nabi Sahab is absolutely right. Only NC can bring the people of Kashmir out of misery.”

 “I have come here at the break of the dawn when everyone was asleep. I have always voted for NC and will continue to do so. The love for the party runs in my blood,” the man said.

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