Iltija Mufti addressing a press conference in New Delhi (Image: Twitter/@somsirsa)
Since the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year, Jammu and Kashmir has grappled with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis, Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija said on Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference in Delhi, Iltija Mufti said Article 370 was Kashmir’s “emotional connect” with the rest of India and its scrapping has come at a great cost.
“I am talking not just as Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, but also as an anguished Kashmiri. We all know what has been happening since Article 370 was abrogated. It was an emotional connect for Kashmiris with the rest of the country. The clampdown had had a huge cost and Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis,” she said.
Alleging the Centre for “spreading misinformation” about the condition of Kashmiris, Mufti went on to say, if Kashmiris gravitate towards Pakistan it is not their fault but the government’s attitude which is forcing them.
“I really think the government is indulging in propaganda and spreading misinformation. The rest of the country and the envoys who visited Kashmir were told that we enjoy equal rights but in reality, you can’t even use VPN in Kashmir right now. I have respect for the Prime Minister but I feel very sad that he is being misled. What rights do Kashmiris have right now?” she asked.
Talking about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1989, Iltija Mufti said what happened was extremely painful but there was no bad blood between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Kashmir.
“People think that Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are at each other’s throat but that is not the case,” she said, while “publicly apologising” for the exodus.
Iltija Mufti’s mother and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah have been under detention since August 5, when the centre scrapped Kashmir’s special status. Admitting that Kashmiri people were angry with local leaders, she said they were more upset with the centre.
“When you talk about politicians in Kashmir being discredited, you are 200 per cent right. But, that’s not something that the rest of the country should be celebrating because Kashmiris are telling the politicians, look you sided with India and what did you get?”
“They are saying so because there is a sense of alienation…but they are more upset with this government. If today Amit Shah can roam about freely in the state, then I will salute him because today every Kashmiri feels that it is he who spearheaded this operation,” she said.
“The need of the hour is to retain what this country stands for…In today’s India, where so much toxicity is being spread, there should be a single holy book which should be the Constitution, and we need to uphold the principles and values enshrined in this holy book,” she said.
Iltija also warned the government to not to be on the wrong side, “When history is written I don’t want to be on the wrong side. It is true that Pakistan has fished in troubled waters, but look at what you have done to Kashmir. If Kashmiris now gravitate towards Pakistan, it will not be their fault. It is the attitude of this government. Armymen are checking phones of children to check whether they are using VPN (virtual private network) and slapping UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) on them, a law that was used for terrorists. Successive governments have tried to rule Kashmir with an iron fist, but it does not work. (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee-Ji understood this, you cannot bulldoze emotions and aspirations.”
Earlier this month, Former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were slapped with the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being under preventive detention for the past six months.