In the seven months since the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, Jammu and Kashmir has grappled with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis, Iltija Mufti, daughter of incarcerated former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, she said Article 370 was Kashmir's “emotional connect” with the rest of India, and the abrogation of its provisions has come at a great cost.
“I am talking not just as Mehbooba Mufti's daughter, but also as an anguished Kashmiri. We all know what has been happening since Article 370 was abrogated.
“It was an emotional connect for Kashmiris with the rest of the country and that was abrogated. The clampdown had had a huge cost and Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis,” she said.
She alleged the Narendra Modi government was “spreading misinformation” about the condition of Kashmiris.
“I really think the government is indulging in propaganda and spreading misinformation. The rest of the country and the envoys who visited Kashmir were told that we enjoy equal rights but in reality you can't even use VPN in Kashmir right now. I have respect for the prime minister as everybody else should have. But I feel very sad that he is being misled or he is willfully misleading the country. What rights do Kashmiris have right now?” she asked.
ltija also criticised the J&K Police for registering case against various people for defying government orders by using social media through virtual private networks (VPNs). “I will go to Kashmir and use VPN and they can file an FIR against me too,” she said.
Talking about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1989, she said what happened was extremely painful, but there was no bad blood between the Hindu and Muslim communities there.
“People think that Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are at each other's throat but that is not the case,” she said, while “publicly apologising” for the exodus.
Her mother and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was detained after provisions of Article 370 were withdrawn on August 5 last year and Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two union territories.
Admitting that Kashmiri people were angry with local leaders including her mother, and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, she said they were “angrier” with the government at the Centre.
“When you talk about politicians in Kashmir being discredited, you are 200 per cent right. But, that's not something that the rest of the country should be celebrating because Kashmiris are telling the politicians, 'Look, you sided with India and what did you guys get?'
“They are (saying so) because there is a sense of alienation...but they are angrier with this government. If today Amit Shah can roam about freely in the state, then I will salute him because today every Kashmiri feels that it is he who spearheaded this operation,” she said.
Asked if she has any political ambition, Iltija said she has not thought about it yet.
She went on to say that it wasn't just in the Valley where the environment has turned “vicious”, but is has happened across India and the country was headed on the path of becoming a “Hindu Pakistan”.
“I don't think the climate is bad only for the Kashmiris alone. But atmosphere in the entire country has become vicious. This is not the country I grew up in...I feel we are becoming a Hindu Pakistan.
“When Pakistan was formed after the Partition, it was believed that it was a country for Muslims and then we saw discrimination against Shias, that they were not Ahmaddiyas... that they were not Pakistanis. I feel as a country that's the path we are going on to.”
She added, “First they will say Kashmiris are not good enough to be Indians, then it will be Muslims are not good enough to be Indians, then they will start a conflict within Hindus that dalits are not Indians.”
According to her, the Constitution was the only “holy book” that one should abide by to get through times like these.
“The need of the hour is to retain what this country stands for...In today's India where so much toxicity is being spread, there should be a single holy book which should be the Constitution, and we need to uphold the principles and values enshrined in this holy book,” she said....