Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir want the erstwhile state’s special status restored and will not settle for anything less, Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti told the Hindustan Times in an interview on Tuesday.
Mufti’s remark came two days before the Centre’s meeting with political parties from Jammu and Kashmir in Delhi. The meeting marks the Narendra Modi-led government’s first major outreach to Kashmiri political leaders since it scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a coalition of six regional political parties, was clear about its agenda before the meeting
“What happened in August 2019 is unacceptable,” Mufti told the Hindustan Times. “Article 370, which gave the state its special status, was unconstitutionally removed. It was a bridge that also connected us emotionally to the rest of India. We will not settle for less. We want Article 370 to be restored.”
On being asked about the Centre repeatedly ruling out restoring Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Mufti said: “Nothing is cast in stone”.
The Peoples Democratic Party chief added: “[Atal Bihari] Vajpayee and other tall leaders, like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, understood the importance of Article 370. The BJP’s manifesto cannot rule this country.”
“Our special status was given to us by the Constitution of India, not by Pakistan or China or the United Nations, or an individual,” she added.
Mufti also told the Hindustan Times that she will not contest any election till Article 370 and 35A are restored. “That is final,” she said. “My party, the PDP, will contest, but I will not; not till I can also hold the flag of Jammu and Kashmir again.”
Responding to a question on what made her trust Modi and accept the invitation for the meeting, the Peoples Democratic Party chief said she was putting her faith in his post.
The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, of which Mufti’s party is a constituent, was formalised in October 2020. The alliance has stood firm on its demand for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. But the alliance has faced severe criticism, including from its own members, for not going beyond rhetoric. Its leaders have been criticised for being status quoists and for failing to come up with a roadmap to fight for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The Centre had abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019, and split it into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Curfews and internet blockades were imposed in the region after that.
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. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July, while Mufti’s detention ended on October 13.