As the BJP-PDP Government in Jammu & Kashmir completed three months in office, Fayaz Wani talked to Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh in Srinagar on the coalition and contentious issues such as Article 370 and Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA), the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits and West Pakistan refugees.
The BJP and the PDP fought Assembly elections against each other and then formed a coalition government. Is this not betrayal?
It’s not so. We discussed it for two months and then accepted in our common minimum programme called ‘Agenda for Alliance’. We respect each other’s perceptions. Had the PDP and the BJP not come together, the state would have witnessed a split on the basis of religion and region. It is better for democracy that the two parties with different ideologies have come together.
With the BJP now part of the state government, there were expectations of a free flow of funds from the Centre.
There are rules and regulations which have to be adhered to. A group of ministers last month held talks with the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. We’ve sought money for the rehabilitation of flood victims, along the lines of what Uttarakhand got.
If AFSPA can be revoked in Tripura, why not in J&K ?
In a democracy, AFSPA-type laws won’t remain in force permanently. We want the Army to go back to the barracks and borders. However, since we are fighting a proxy war, it is important to have the law here. We believe that J&K doesn’t have the kind of situation where it can be removed. In fact, it is due to the AFSPA that militant violence has come down. However, we are trying to ensure that it is not misused.
What about Article 370?
We feel Article 370 has not benefited the state. Let’s discuss whether it has benefited the state. Its abrogation is our agenda. But the people of the state have not given the mandate for us to do that. They have given mandate for good governance. That is why, in ‘Agenda for Alliance’, we have called for maintaining the status quo.
What about the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits?
We favour their settlement in mixed township and don’t favour settling them in separate clusters. There is no proposal to settle the Pandits in separate townships. We want them to return to Valley and live in the secured environment of mixed townships. We can’t provide them security at their native places now. After improvement in the situation, they can shift to their native places.
Will permanent residency rights be given to the West Pakistan refugees?
West Pakistan refugees have been living in J&K since 1947. It is our responsibility to do something for them. They are not state subjects. J&K has some laws and whatever is possible within J&K law can be done for them.
There have been many incidents of Pakistani flags being hoisted.
The hoisting of Pakistani flags is no doubt a criminal and anti-national act. We’ll take strong action against the people involved in hoisting Pakistani flags or chanting Pakistani slogans. Already, (separatist leader)Masarrat Alam has been booked.