Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said on Saturday the defeat of the BJP in Bihar elections had done a “great job” in discouraging the fringe groups that have been “misusing” Hinduism for political gain.
Mufti’s comments, made at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi, were ostensibly directed at some union ministers and BJP leaders’ controversial remarks which have fed a raging national debate over growing intolerance.
“In our country there are fringe elements who are misusing the name of Hinduism and they also compare it with nationalism which is worse,” she said.
“The mentality is the same… It is the thought process that counts,” she said when asked how her party, which has an alliance with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, justifies calls from some union minister that those who support eating beef must “go to Pakistan”.
Several BJP ministers and leaders, including VK Singh, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Yogi Adityanath, had recently courted controversies with their statements, prompting the party leadership to urge restrain at a time when the government is trying to win parliamentary approval for key reforms legislation.
“When people are trying to fight a battle with rising prices, don’t get onions, and suddenly some people start dictating as to which meat should one consume? This is not done. This is not acceptable,” she said.
“But the Bihar elections had done a great job. Certain things are larger than elections. Tolerance is the strength of India. Hinduism had provided this tolerance while Islam had given equality and Christianity compassion and charity.”
Mufti also asserted that there will be no “fiddling” with Article 370 that accords special status to Jammu and Kashmir, reacting to suggestions earlier this year from certain BJP leaders that the constitutional provision would eventually be scrapped.
She said the constitutional provision only strengthens the region’s bond with India.
“The feeling that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India has to go beyond the ownership of land,” she said.
“India needs to invest in Kashmir’s peace. If Kashmiris chose to be a part of democratic and secular India (in 1947), we need to be given something in return...We need to be treated special. If you give someone something, to snatch it away slowly is stealing.”
The PDP chief also said the festering Kashmir imbroglio could best be resolved with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s policy of accommodating Kashmiris and giving Pakistan a role in any solution.
Asked if Modi would really follow Vajpayee’s policy, Mufti said: “With the passage of time, he is coming around it. That’s why we are seeing (external affairs minister) Sushma Swaraj going to Pakistan.”
On the unlikely alliance with the BJP in the state, she said, “My father decided not to think of electoral politics when he aligned with the BJP.
“It was more about connecting people and playing a bridge. It could be a ‘ghate ka sauda’ if thought in terms of electoral politics.”
She ruled out the possibility of the Islamic State making inroads in Kashmir, saying its actions were the antithesis of the Sufi Islam practised in the valley.
Kashmiri youngsters arrested for waving IS flags, Mufti pointed out, did not know about the group and in some cases, the IS flags were merely a replacement for the Pakistani flags usually used during protests in Jammu and Kashmir “just to catch attention”.