Situation not conducive for elections in Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti (Interview)

September 17th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Elections must not be held now in Jammu and Kashmir due to the continuing turmoil, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti says, adding that mainstream political parties in the state need to find their “bearings and space again”.Mehbooba Mufti also ruled out an alliance between the PDP and the Congress for the coming assembly elections due by October and warned against attempts to “demonise” her party in view of the widespread unrest sparked off by the Amarnath shrine land row.

Even as the Election Commission has started consulting other parties to ascertain their views on the timing of elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP leader said the time was “not at all conducive” for balloting.

Mehbooba Mufti, whose party’s withdrawal of support to the Congress led to Governor’s rule in the state, felt that if elections were “imposed” on the state, it would have an adverse impact on the situation.

“Today, the mere announcement of elections will be like a red rag,” Mehbooba Mufti said in an interview.

“You need to give breathing space to people (in Kashmir), and also go in for confidence building measures which give a healing touch to the situation,” she said. “Forty to 50 people have died in recent weeks. ‘Maar peeth aur goli chal rahi hai.” (People are being beaten up and there are firings). How can you think of having elections?”

And the recent upsurge in the Kashmir Valley in support of Jammu and Kashmir’s independence has shrunk the political space for the mainstream parties, she pointed out.

“Maintstream parties ko zameen par aane ka mauka tho do (Please give the mainstream parties a chance to find their bearings and space again).”

Would her party boycott the polls if they were announced now?

Mehbooba Mufti was ambivalent: “We are waiting and watching the situation. We will discuss this in our party and then take a view.

“As I said, elections are not the issue today. If they are announced now, they will become an issue in the negative sense.”

She ruled out a PDP-Congress tie-up again. “There is so much polarization. It has become PDP versus the others. Given the wedge between the two parties, a tie-up (with the Congress) will be very difficult.”

Mehbooba Mufti decried what she said were attempts to “demonise” her party, and advocated a “middle path” to resolve the Kashmir tangle.

“Unfortunately, we have a section in our country with a mindset that the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir should be maintained. You cannot have status quo in Jammu and Kashmir today.

“If you have to maintain the country’s territorial sovereignty, the internal status quo has to be changed, on both sides of Kashmir. We had talked about self-rule, a regional council, revocation of the Special Powers Act, reduction of troops. And giving a sense of unification to Kashmir without jeopardizing the authority of either country on both sides.”

These, she said, were “very reasonable” demands. “Had they heeded us earlier, `itna gussa aur gham nahin hota’ (there would not have been so much anger and sorrow).”

The PDP has been charged with taking positions akin to the views of the separatists.

“Unfortunately it is the other way around. It is we who have been talking about opening the road to Muzzafarabad, going in for more trade… At the first roundtable conference it was Mufti Sahib (former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed) who first talked about revoking the Special Powers Act and reduction of troops.

“If the separatists are today talking about those things, they realise that this is what people feel and want.”

What now?

Mehbooba Mufti felt that “dialogue and reconciliation” were the only options. “Force is not an option. If we have to save Jammu and Kashmir, the leadership has to understand that the status quo has to change.”

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