BANIHAL/JAMMU: PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday asked the Centre to restore Article 370 and resolve the Kashmir issue if it wants to "keep Kashmir", saying people want return of "our identity and honour" and that too with interest.
Addressing a public rally at Neel village of Banihal, she also said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have decided "our fate with Mahatma Gandhi's India which gave us Article 370, our own constitution and flag" and cannot live with (Nathuram) Godse's India.
Mehbooba asked the people to stand united and "strengthen her voice for the success of her struggle in support of the restoration of special status guaranteed by the Constitution and safeguard the identity and honour of the people" of Jammu and Kashmir.
"We have decided our fate with Mahatma Gandhi's India which gave us Article 370, our own constitution and flag. If they take everything from us, we will also take back our decision. They have to think if they want to keep J&K with them, they have to restore Article 370 and resolve the Kashmir issue," she said.
The "people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot live with Godse's (assassin of Mahatma Gandhi) India", Mehbooba added.
"We want Mahatma Gandhi's India, return of our identity and honour which was given to us by the Indian Constitution and I am sure they have to return it with interest as well," she asserted.
Noting that history is testimony to the fact that no powerful nation has ruled people on the might of guns, she said, "You cannot keep Kashmir by holding a stick or a gun (on the heads of the people) the super power America failed to rule Afghanistan on the strength of its power and had to leave the country."
Without naming the BJP, the former chief minister said, "Some of our own people get annoyed when I demand dialogue with Pakistan for peace in J&K and resolution of the issue. They dub me a traitor and anti-national."
"Today they are talking with Taliban and also China which has illegally occupied our land in Ladakh and has also set up a village in Arunachal Pradesh," she said.
However, Mehbooba said if the people stand united, it is not a big deal that "we will not succeed in our goal (of restoration of Article 370 and resolution of Kashmir issue)".
"India took 200 years from getting its freedom from the British and BJP took 70 years to remove Article 370 unconstitutionally.
We may take 70 months but we will compel the Indian government to return not only Article 370 but resolve the Kashmir issue as well for which our youth rendered numerous sacrifices and filled the graveyards with their bodies," she said.
Seeking support of the people, Mehbooba said she does not bow before anyone but "what is going to happen if I do not bow before anyone, unless I am supported by all of you".
"You have to support my voice and I also need your blessings. If we do not raise our voice today, time will come when the people will say this was a place which was once a habitat of Kashmiri Muslims, Gujjars, Bakerwals and Pahari people as others will be settled here," she said.
"Today is not an election and I am not seeking votes from you. When the time for elections comes, vote for whom you wish to vote for. I want your support for PDP so that no 18-month-old is forced to come on the road again to seek the body of his father," she said referring to the protest by the family members of the civilians killed in a controversial gunfight in Hyderpora locality of Srinagar on November 15.
Mehbooba, however, defended joining hands with the BJP to form a government in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was done to "safeguard our honour and stop them (BJP) from touching Article 370".
"As long as our government remained in power, they did not touch Article 370. The day it collapsed, they revoked it (Article 370). We controlled them like a father who pushes himself before a bear to save his family. We sacrificed ourselves to safeguard our identity," she claimed.
She accused the BJP of " polarising the country and dividing the people of Jammu and Kashmir on basis of caste, creed and religion".
"After PDP and National Conference, they are out to split Congress into two groups - one which remains in its own pocket and the other outside it," she claimed, in an apparent reference to recent development in the national party when scores of its senior leaders and activists, believed to be close to former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, resigned from party positions in a revolt against J&K Congress chief G A Mir.