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Monday, June 13, 2016

Mehbooba firm on Pandit enclaves but freezes proposal for Sainik colonies

'Sheikh Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed strengthened J&K's accession to India, supported idea of India'

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, May 28: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday vowed to bring displaced Kashmiri Pandits back to their home and hearth in Kashmir valley while putting her foot down on establishment of the protected ghettos for rehabilitation of the minority community.

In her exhaustive reply to the discussion on motion of thanks on the Governor's address, Mehbooba said without any equivocation on the floor of Assembly that she would bring back all the Kashmiri migrants, including Muslims and Sikhs who had been displaced due to militancy since 1989, and settle them where they lived before migration. She asserted that as long as they felt insecure and were not prepared to live in their villages, her Government would accommodate them at protected transit camps---her phrase for the enclaves the opposition calls ghettos.

She made clear that the protected transit accommodations would come up at different places and the migrants settled there would go back to their old residential neighbourhoods only after they would feel safe and secure. This is Chief Minister Mehbooba's first affront to the entire separatist and mainstream opposition that has rejected the plan of Jagti-type ghettos and asserted through sratements, demonstrations and hartals that the migrants would have to live "only at their homes in their pre-1990 residential localities".

"Forcing them to return and live in their old neighbourhood would be inhuman as they don't feel safe and secure for now. They will put up at transit accommodations and subsequently settle at their own homes when they will feel safe and secure. We can't put pigeons before the cat", Mehbooba asserted. She completely ignored independent MLA Engineer Rashid's interruptions. The MLA echoed the separatists' refrain of opposition to the displaced Pandits' settlement in protected ghettos. Even the leader of opposition Omar Abdullah had on Friday strongly rejected the plan of "Jagti-type colonies" in the Valley.

"God willing and subject to my life, I will get them all back", Mehbooba said and her assertion evoked an applause from the treasury benches.

Chief Minister, nevertheless, abandoned the idea of creating Sainik colonies for the soldiers serving in Jammu snd Kashmir. "We have made it clear and communicated (to Governor and Rajya Sainik Board) that we have no land for this purpose", Mehbooba said to the disappointment of her coalition ally that was writ large on the faces of several BJP Ministers and MLAs.

Taking a dig on her predecessor Chief Minister, Mehbooba said that the opposition leader Omar Abdullah was creating confusion and triggering against her mass hatred while asserting that non-State subject soldiers were to be settled in the proposed Sainik colonies.

"Let it be clear that there was no such proposal that would have compromised the State's special status. It was a proposal mooted in previous government and the purpose was to rehabilitate the permanent resident soldiers. Omar Sahab, why are you misleading the people?", Mehbooba asked her predecessor. She added that though the proposal was only for accommodating the State subject soldiers and their families, her Government had communicated (to Governor and Rajya Sainik Board) that there was no land available for this purpose. She said she had deferred it despite NC's clarification that it had no objection to establishment of a Sainik colony if it was restricted for rehabilitation of the State subject soldier families.

Omar got up to clarify that in his speech yesterday, he only demanded to know as to what were the modalities for settlement of the proposed Sainik colony. "Don't please put your words into my mouth", he addressed the CM, suggesting that he or his party had not raised the bogey of the settlement of non-State subject soldiers.

Mehbooba devoted much of her speech to praising her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for his "vision" and emphasised that he had supported and strengthened J&K's accession to India in extremely hostile conditions when an air had been created against anyone who looked pro-Indian in Kashmir. She referred to the social boycott Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's Plebiscite Front had called against the political forces strengthening Kashmir's relationship with India. She however began her speech while showering praise on the NC founder Sheikh Abdullah for ratifying and supporting accession to India earlier done by Maharaja Hari Singh. Mehbooba said that great leaders like Sheikh Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed had a great political vision and both were supporters and promoters of the idea of India.

She said it was a matter of pride for every State subject that Jammu and Kashmir was an example of communal harmony and secular ethos for centuries. "My father was voted for Assembly from Hindu-dominated RS Pura of Jammu. Pandits like Makhan Lal Fotedar and PL Handoo were elected as MLAs from Kashmir's Muslim-dominated segments", Mehbooba said.

Mehbooba justified her party's coalition with BJP with the argument that this "compulsion" was a consequence of the split mandate and a hung House thrown up in 2014. "While as PDP won maximum seats from Valley, BJP was returned from Jammu. Had we ignored that mandate and cobbled up a coalition with NC and Congress, it would have created an unimaginable dangerous situation. People in Kashmir picked up the gun after MUF's victories were bungled in 1987. I don't know how Jammu would have behaved in 2015", Mehbooba said.

Mehbooba asserted that notwithstanding her father's compulsions, PDP had got BJP's commitment in Agenda of Alliance with regard to protection of J&K's special constitutional status. She counted it her party's achievement that most of the recommendations made and endorsed in round table conferences and working groups---of which Congress and NC were a part---had been incorporated in PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance.

"I will sit on this chair as long as our dignity is protected but I will not waste a second to quit whenever I will feel that it has become a  weakness for me", Mehbooba said to another applause from PDP Ministers and MLAs.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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