SRI NAGAR: “An idea cannot be jailed,” said Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti a day after she cautioned New Delhi against any move to alter the special status given to her state by India’s Constitution.
She went on to take a nuanced position on the current turmoil in the Kashmir Valley, arguing for more points of trade across the Line of Control (LoC), even nomination of individuals from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to the state’s legislature and joint sittings of the Assembly “in this Kashmir and that Kashmir”.
All this while keeping to the official line that India was incomplete without Kashmir. “Kashmir is the crown of India and it needs to be respected,” she said.
The speech came at a rally by her People Democratic party (PDP) to mark its foundation day. It was also the first public rally by any mainstream political party in Srinagar since the killing in July 2016 of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces.
In a message that was meant as much for her party cadres as decision makers in New Delhi, she said, “We have a different challenge today. Today’s youth are not afraid of the police, the Special Operations Group and the Army. There is an idea due to which stones are pelted and guns have been taken up.” In concrete terms, she appealed to Delhi to tread the path of former PM Vajpayee and revive the Lahore Declaration between India and Pakistan. Apart from an impassioned appeal for more people-to-people contacts between Jammu and Kashmir and PoK, the novel idea Mehbooba proposed was for a joint legislature for the two parts of Kashmir.
“There are seats reserved in our Assembly for that Kashmir. We should decide together to make nominations for those seats. We should decide that this Assembly meets once in this Kashmir and once in that Kashmir every year so that we can talk about tourism, opening of the Sharda Peeth and travel,” she said.
Mehbooba questioned why there cannot be more open points of trade on the line separating J&K and PoK. She said the plea that this would open up supply lines for drug trafficking was a specious one. “Don’t charas and ganja come through the Wagah border (in Punjab)? But nobody talks about closing that border crossing,” she asserted
The latter was a dig at media reports that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has recommended closure of cross-LoC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote routes.