Mufti Sayeed calls for Gujarat 'model of development', urges for peace in J-K
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, said on Sunday that his Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) forged an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of conviction and not convenience in spite of the contradictions and being ideologically poles apart.
"I've gone for this alliance out of conviction and not convenience or compulsion," he said at a press conference soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister of the restive State for the second time, leading a historic alliance with the BJP which will be part of a government in the state for the first time.
He said the political alliance was a pre-requisite for government formation in the state yet it took him and his party two months to cobble up an alliance with the BJP. "I must also say we are poles apart but politics is the art of the possible, even when there are contradictions," he said.
He said it was equally important to have peace in Jammu and Kashmir and also bring its politically distant regions together so that a good and responsive government was provided to the people. "History gave us an opportunity to bring Jammu and the Kashmir Valley closer. Srinagar and Jammu may be a at distance of only few hours drive but what is crucial is how to unite the hearts as well...If we have to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with rest of the country we first need to bring the people of Jammu and Kashmir closer," he said.
The Chief Minister who was flanked by BJP leader and deputy chief minister, Nirmal Kumar Singh, and PDP's chief negotiator in talks with BJP and now minister Haseeb A. Drabu said that in 2002 when his party got together with Congress "we made sure there was a peaceful atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir." He said, "It was not an emotional decision either. We had worked out a Common Minimum Programme and our agenda was to provide the people of the state who had suffered enormously for many years a healing touch."
Sayeed said that the BJP has the mandate of the people of India and Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of the country. "In Jammu and Kashmir, we have got the mandate to get people together. We have won elections in Kashmir and have got the support from people of Jammu," he said adding that in order to make Jammu and Kashmir a model of development like Gujarat, "we need to bring peace to this state."
He asserted, "We want to make this alliance a turning point in trying to meet the hearts and minds of the people. We want to do justice to all people. We have a historic opportunity today; we want a new chapter for Jammu and Kashmir." He added, "I can't say how much we will be able to do. But what I can tell you is that we will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with each other."
He also said that Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in the country and can work as a catalyst for entire country. "Jammu and Kashmir provides diversity. It is the only Muslim majority state in the country. It will send a positive message across the country and beyond," he said.
He stressed the need for taking Hurriyat Conference and other separatists on board too saying they also have a view point. He said that the separatists and militants and also Pakistan had allowed the democratic process to flourish in Jammu and Kashmir by not creating any hurdles in the conduct of elections. "I have told this to Prime Minister also that the Hurriyat and militants could have made the holding of peaceful elections difficult. Pakistan also allowed us to create a conducive atmosphere and take the democratic process forward which gave us hope," he said. Asked if the separatists would react to talks offer as is being suggested by him positively or be part of a democratic process, he said, "Sajad Lone has taken an initiative. It is a breakthrough."
Sayeed said that Kashmir has been a problem for every Prime Minister of the country since 1947 and that is why he told the Prime Minister that we should be friends with Pakistan. "I told him India is a great country with huge human resources and has to play a leading role in Saarc community but the only bottleneck is Pakistan and we need to make friends with it as well," he said.
Replying questions on the issue of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act and the demand for its revocation and that for its continuation, Sayeed said he as Chief Minister was the head of Unified headquarters of armed forces and would ensure to make them accountable. "As Chief Minister, I'm the chairman of Unified Command. They have to follow my directions. I will make them accountable," he said. He also said his was a democratically elected government and its voice will have to be heard. When asked when the contentious law would be withdrawn from the state, the Chief Minister said, "There is no time frame. Are you interested in peace or revocation of a law. We will change the perception about the AFSPA." He also said, "We will review security situation with a view to examine the need of special laws. In this connection the government will also examine the need for de-notifying disturbed areas under the Disturbed Areas Act."
Asked about the Article 370 of the Constitution, Sayeed said the present position on the special status will be maintained.
The Chief Minister said his first priority would be to get the state rid of corruption. "We also want to be fair and have a transparent system. We want to create employers but we cannot guarantee employment. Unemployment is the main challenge in the state. We also have issues of connectivity and tourism," he said.
He said his government would create better infrastructure including setting up more 5 star hotels towards promoting tourism in Kashmir. It would also promote Jammu as an independent tourist destination and wants a high-tech industry in the region.
Asked about the plight of refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan, he said, "We will take measures for their sustenance and livelihood." He also pledged to felicitate and initiate dialogue with all internal stakeholders and that an effort would be made towards seeking national reconciliation on Jammu and Kashmir. "We have one agenda, both parties will work towards it...We will also request other parties to support us in our thoughts," he said adding "Na grenade se, na goli se; baat banegi boli se (Not with the help of a grenade or a bullet; we can solve issues only by talking)".