Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate a dialogue process with Pakistan at the earliest as the “key for peace” was with the neighbouring country.
Speaking at a function organised by a group of Kashmiri Pandits owing allegiance to the Peoples Democratic Party, Mufti said that war was never an option.
“Reconciliation is the mantra which we need to follow and therefore, I request Modi ji to engage with Pakistan,” she said.
“We need to take an assurance from the neighbouring country that they should not be allowing their soil to be used against India. After all, we all know that the key for peace is in Pakistan. They have been pushing terrorists into the state,” she said.
The chief minister said that efforts should be made for changing the slogan of “Azadi” in the Kashmir Valley.
“This can be achieved. Why can’t Jammu and Kashmir be a gateway to the central Asian countries.
“If the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a possibility, so can be this. If new roads are opened, the slogan of Azadi will automatically change,” she said at a gathering of around 200 Kashmiri Pandits, who had to leave their homes after the onset of the militancy in 1990.
She advised people not to watch debates on television channels which only foment hatred between the two warring nations as well as the Muslims of Kashmir and the rest of the country.
“Those, sitting in studios and pontificating the nation, are only interested in the TRP ratings and not finding solution to the problem.
“Many a times I wonder who are these people who talk so much on television. Are they even aware of the ground realities,” she said.
Mufti said that every second day daggers are out and war hysteria is created.
“If a war had to happen, it would have in 2001 when the armies of the two nation were in an eye-ball-to-eye ball contact for over a year,” she said.
“War (between India and Pakistan) will not happen. After the attack on Parliament in 2001, the armies of both the countries (India and Pakistan) were deployed along borders for a year, if the war did not take place back then, it will not take place now as both the nations know it will be disastrous (for both),” she said.
She also appealed for a reconciliation between the Kashmiri Muslims and Pandit community.
“I know you people had to leave your homes under difficult situations. You people have suffered but so do have those who are their in Kashmir.
“The gift of education has helped you (Pandits) in making a name for yourself but those in Kashmir are still trying to live a peaceful life,” the chief minister said and made an appeal to Kashmiri Pandits to visit the Valley.
“The Valley is incomplete without you. To begin with, please come as tourists and later if you feel so, you are most welcome to go back to your homes and stay there. I am not assuring you a roller coaster ride.
“Difficulties will be there but we together have to face these difficulties. Please do not wait for the last gun to fall silent,” she said.
The chief minister also apologised to the Kashmiri Pandits for delay in resolving their issues.
The Kashmiri Pandits should send their younger generations to see the state to familiarise them with their roots, the way children from Jammu and Kashmir are sent to see the rest of India, Mufti said.
She also urged the Centre to talk with Pakistan so that the Kashmiri Pandits can visit Sharda Peeth in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
When asked about the third front, she said every party has a right to be in alliance with any party it wants.
Over funds to Jammu and Kashmir, she said it is given by the Centre and the earliest they do so, the state government tries to utilise them.
A charter of demands, including health insurance, was submitted by the group of Kashmiri Pandits to the chief minister who assured that she will consider and act upon them.
Sharda Peeth, once regarded as a major centre of learning, is an abandoned Hindu temple located in Sharda village along the Neelam river near the Line of Control.
Image: Jammu-Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during an interaction with Kashmiri Pandits in New Delhi. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo