NEW DELHI: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday slammed Pakistan and separatist leaders for fuelling unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and hoped that a “very concerned” Prime Minister Narendra Modi would get the troubled state out of the deadly turmoil that has left over 70 dead and crippled life in the valley for 50 days.
Mehbooba met Modi at his 7, Race Course residence during which the two discussed the Kashmir situation as well as ways out of the ongoing unrest.
The violence has caused a “deep pain” to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister told reporters outside Modi’s residence.
“The Prime Minister is very concerned and is as hurt as we are with the deaths in Kashmir,” she said.
She directly blamed Pakistan for inciting the violence and said Kashmiri youth were attacking security forces and police stations after being provoked to do so.
“I want to tell Pakistan, if it has any sympathy for Kashmiris, it should stop provoking them to attack police stations — and save youth from being killed.”
This is the first time that Mehbooba, previously known for her soft corner for Pakistan and separatists when in opposition, has directly blamed Islamabad for the Kashmir trouble.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader said Pakistan lost a “golden chance” to resolve the Kashmir problem when Modi went to Lahore in December last and later Home Minister Rajnath Singh early this month visited Islamabad for a Saarc conference.
“It is time for Pakistan to respond (to India) if it wants peace in Kashmir,” she said.
The meeting was her first with Modi since the unrest began after the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
The death of the 22-year-old social media savvy militant, largely blamed for reviving separatist sentiments in the valley, triggered a wave of stone-pelting protests. Over 11,000 persons — including 7,000 civilians and 4,000 security personnel — have been injured in the deadliest unrest the valley has seen in six years.
Mehbooba favoured talks “with all stakeholders” to solve the Kashmir issue but asked separatist leaders to shun violence.
“They (the separatists) have to decide if they want to talk. On one side, you tell youth to attack security forces and army camps… Talks should be held with those who want peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. For others, it is a business. Those who provoke people and cause bloodshed don’t want talks.”
She rejected a separatist notion that the United Nations can solve the Kashmir problem.
The PDP leader reminded separatist leaders how Pakistan’s former military dictator Pervez Musharraf had said the dispute would be solved by taking into consideration the aspirations of the people of India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir.
When not in office, Mehbooba and her PDP were vocal about Musharraf’s four-point formula for Kashmir. That included no change in borders, phased demilitarisation, self-governance and joint supervision by Islamabad and New Delhi for both sides of the state divided between India and Pakistan. The PDP’s much touted self-rule formula is in line with the Musharraf plan floated in 2006.
The Chief Minister said the “Indian democracy has enough space to accommodate dreams of Kashmiris”.
“If Modi wants, and he of course wants, the Kashmir issue will be solved… Modi ji has a majority and if during his time, the situation doesn’t change then it will never change. I have high hopes from the Prime Minister.”
She made a passionate appeal to Kashmiri protesters for peace and sought “one chance” to get the Kashmir issue solved.
“These are the same youth and kids who would accompany me in my public rallies. Give me a chance I will get it (Kashmir issue) solved. It has not been only two months since I have taken over the government and ‘itna bada bawaal aagaya’ (such a big problem erupted),” the first woman Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said, referring to the turmoil.
Her remarks came as protesters on Saturday blocked the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway squatting on the road with the body of a youth who drowned after jumping into the Jhelum river to escape chasing security forces on Friday evening.
The body of Shahnawaz Khan, 24, was retrieved from the river near Sangam village in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara area – the home town of Mehbooba Mufti.
The death took the toll to 71 as the unrest continued for the 50th day on Saturday.