Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said on Saturday the contentious Kashmir dispute could best be resolved through former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s policy of accommodating Kashmiris and giving Pakistan a role in the solution.
Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Mufti indicated there could not be a solution to the Kashmir issue that involved any change of borders or exchange of territory.
The 56-year-old politician, who plays a key behind-the-scenes role in the BJP-PDP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, ruled out the possibility of the Islamic State making inroads in the restive state, saying its actions were the antithesis of the Sufi Islam practised in the region.
“Ultimately there is no alternative to Vajpayee’s policy of reaching out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir while also accommodating Pakistan somewhere,” she said while talking of her father and chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“It’s not about giving Kashmir to anybody - you can’t do that,” Mufti said. Her father, she said, wanted to “take the Vajpayee process to its logical conclusion”.
“Whatever my father had started during Vajpayee’s time and then it was taken forward by Dr Manmohan Singh...everything was put on the backburner,” she said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she pointed out, had “often been saying he wants to follow Vajpayee’s policy on Kashmir”.
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.”
At the same time, Mufti said the country needs to invest in Kashmir’s peace and “own and acknowledge” the pain and suffering of the Kashmiris. “The ordinary people of India need to participate in hand holding with Kashmiris,” she added.
“When you talk of Jammu and Kashmir being an integral part of India, you need to go beyond the ownership of land,” Mufti said, adding that the dignity of Kashmiris is being undermined.
The problem of Kashmir can no longer be seen through the prism of security and the central government has to be “more humane” while dealing with the issue cautiously, she said.
Mufti also said the first point of her party’s agenda of alliance with the BJP was that there will be no fiddling with Article 370, which gives special status to the militancy-hit state.
Asked about the possibility of radicalised Kashmiri youths turning to the Islamic State, Mufti said the dreaded terror network was the antithesis of Islam that would not be accepted by the people of her state.
“The IS is destroying everything Islam holds dear,” she said. Kashmiriyat, the essence of Kashmiri culture based on the Sufi interpretation of Islam, is the “answer to everything”, she said.
Kashmiri youngsters arrested for waving IS flags, she pointed out, did not know about the group and in some cases, the IS flags were a replacement for the Pakistani flags usually used during protests in Jammu and Kashmir “just to catch attention”.
Mufti said it was important for the central government deal with “fringe elements” who were “misusing the name of Hinduism” and comparing it to nationalism. Such elements, she said, were no different from the forces responsible for unrest in countries such as Syria. “The mentality is the same.”
Tolerance is the strength of India, she said, adding Hinduism had provided this tolerance while Islam had given equality and Christianity compassion and charity.
Mufti blamed the rise of the IS on the military campaigns waged by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, which had created a “feeling of victimhood” among some Muslims. It is important for the world community not to “blame Muslims” for the actions of the IS, she added.
“Indian Muslims need to be saluted. They didn’t come to Kashmir - people came from all over and picked up guns but not Indian Muslims. We shouldn’t be so influenced by the IS that we start suspecting all Muslims,” she said.