“I won’t fight any election until Article 370 is restored. Otherwise they will say I am doing it for political gains. But my party does not want to leave any democratic space or it will be taken away by other forces. If the party wins, there are other senior leaders. I will not be Chief Minister. I want to send message to my people that it is not a mere slogan for me,” Mehbooba Mufti told NDTV.
The three-hour meeting was PM Modi’s first outreach to mainstream Jammu and Kashmir leaders who have been fiercely critical of his government’s decision to scrap special status under Article 370 and downgrade the state into two Union Territories in 2019.
PM Modi talked about removing “Dilli ki Doori as well as Dil Ki Doori“.
He also assured that statehood would be restored “at an appropriate time” but urged the leaders to get on board with delimitation or redrawing of constituencies so elections could be held in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Before elections we need Confidence Building Measures as people’s confidence is shaken, they are shattered. They are depressed…you need to reach out to people first,” said the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader.
“We thought we will be able to get some confidence building measures, maybe we will be able to give some relief to people. That is why we felt it was important to go (for the meeting).”
One of the reasons for the Centre’s reach-out is believed to be the dip in terror incidents and militancy. Several key militants have been killed over the past two years, say officials, calling it a huge win for the forces.
“Killing militants is maybe the success of security forces but not the success of a government. You have to address why young boys are picking up guns. Once you bury a militant in a graveyard, that boy’s body becomes Pakistan for everybody. The flag on their grave becomes a Pakistani flag. We have to address that, reach out to people… we have to stop this,” Ms Mufti said.
“The underlying disquiet needs to be addressed. I am not against elections. You need to have elections but before that you need confidence building measures. They have demoted J&K from special status. They have dismembered and demolished the state. They have not only demolished 370 but the trust of the people. First restore 370 and 35A (defining special privileges in jobs and land rights of permanent residents of J&K), then hold elections.”
On the measures that she wanted to see, she said: “If the siege is lifted, people are not harassed, students and journalists are not harassed, people are not picked up… I know this is happening elsewhere in the country too, but these confidence-building measures must be done before something can be done.”
With inputs from NDTV