Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday told the Centre to learn from the crisis in Afghanistan, warning that if the residents of Jammu and Kashmir lose their patience, the central government will “disappear” from the Union Territory, reported The Indian Express.
“I am telling you again and again: don’t test our patience; understand and correct [yourself],” she said at a public rally in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Mufti was referring to the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken over the country. In April, United States President Joe Biden had announced his decision to bring back troops from Afghanistan before September 11.
Even as foreign troops were preparing to withdraw, the Taliban rapidly made advances in the conflict-torn country, seizing key cities. On August 15, the insurgent group entered the presidential palace in the capital Kabul, bringing an end to the offensive, as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
“Understand what is happening in the neighbourhood…Such a big power – America – had to fold their beds and return,” she said. “You [the Centre] still have an opportunity. The way [former PM Atal Bihari] Vajpayee-ji started a dialogue – with outside [Pakistan] and here [J&K] – you also [should] start a dialogue.”
She urged the Centre to restore Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, which was abrogated when the Centre revoked Article 370 on August 5, 2019. “What you have robbed us of illegally and unconstitutionally – the identity of J&K – that you have distorted, and the pieces that you did to J&K...correct this mistake, or else it would be too late,” Mufti said.
The PDP chief also appealed to the youth in the Union Territory to not take up arms. “I request the youth to resist by staying alive and do not lose your lives,” Mufti said, according to PTI. “When you lose your lives, everything is over. The people at the other end do not understand that the youth of Kashmir should not sacrifice their lives.”
She also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of dividing the country on religious lines and said that if the saffron party had been in power after Independence, Jammu and Kashmir would not have joined the Indian Union.
“It [Jammu and Kashmir joining India] happened when [former Prime Minister] Jawaharlal Nehru was in power, who was secular and democratic and who believed in brotherhood,” she said. “He assured the people of J&K, which was a Muslim majority, of a special status to accede to a Hindu majority India.”
The PDP chief also refuted allegations that she did not speak about the abrogation of Article 370 during a meeting of 19 Opposition parties with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on August 20. She said that she raised the matter and added that it was the duty of the Congress to protect the residents of the Union Territory.
The BJP and the Congress criticised Mufti’s comments.
BJP Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ravinder Raina said that Mufti was under misconception on the matter.
“India is a powerful country and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unlike [United States President] Joe Biden who withdrew from Afghanistan,” he said. “Whether it is the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammed], or Hizbul... anyone who conspires against India will be destroyed.”
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said Mufti’s comments were “highly condemnable and provocative”.
“Rather than preaching peace, [and] exposing government on policy issues, if your politics requires you to threaten the establishment with violent consequences, then clearly you are steering to [the] wrong path,” he added.
In August 2019, the Centre had abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposed a lockdown in the region, and divided the state into the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Almost all of Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including Mufti and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, were put under detention. Farooq Abdullah was released from detention on March 13, 2020. Omar Abdullah’s detention was also revoked over a week later. Sajjad Lone was released in July 2020, while Mufti’s detention ended on October 13 last year.