Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday claimed that she did not visit the families of militants on her own but was invited by them, even as she called the PDP deserters a “mere junk”.
“A family from Pulwama whose son is a militant dropped at my residence with the plea that during their visit to Jammu recently, the police harassed his (militant’s) sister and kept her in a lock up for four days along with her husband and brother. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah also live near the place where I put up, but they did not go there. In such a situation, what was I supposed to do? I assured them of taking up the issue with the director general of police, but also told them that if I talk about their case, what about other such cases,” Mehbooba said, adding: “They (the family) then asked me to visit them as it will convey a message to the entire Kashmir. Then I went there and got two family members, who were also under detention. released. The governor later also ordered an inquiry into the incident”.
“Following this”, Mehbooba claimed, “the family of another militant from Safnagri (Shopian), who was martyred, called me seeking release of their another son who was in police custody. I went there.”
Addressing a handful of PDP workers on the third death anniversary of her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed at Darashikow garden in southern Bijbehara town—where Sayeed is laid to rest—Mehbooba denied the accusation that she was reaching out to the families of militants for electoral gains.
“I am being criticised for not visiting such families during my stint as the Chief Minister. I tried my level best that the families (of militants) are not dragged into the fight between the militants and the security forces. Even I transferred a top police official, whom I won’t name here, for his involvement in harassing the family of a militant,” Mehbooba said.
“Which former chief minister would go from village to village? If Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah don’t feel the need to go, that doesn’t mean I also shouldn’t go. I feel the pain of our daughters and mothers,” she said.
“If at all anyone felt hurt by my visit, I apologise for that and won’t go again. But if at all anyone is in trouble, my doors are always open for them. Power comes and goes, it hardly matters, but if we don’t come to the rescue of this nation in these tough times, then who would, and when?”
Mehbooba’s remarks come a day after Hizbul Mujahideen’s operational chief Riyaz Naikoo accused her of enacting a drama to gain sympathy for electoral gains, while asking the families of militants to not let her enter their homes.
Mehbooba also apologised for her ‘toffee’ remark she had made during the peak of 2016 summer uprising, and addressed the youth killed that year as “martyrs”.
“I was concerned like a mother about the young people who were getting killed and injured. It hurt me that some people with vested interests were pushing young boys towards army camps and police stations,” she said.
After the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani, Mehbooba—while addressing a press conference in Srinagar alongside union home minister Rajnath Singh—had justified the killing of youth, saying “they were not going to army camps and police stations to buy toffees and fetch milk”.
On rebellion within the PDP ranks, Mehbooba said those who deserted the party were “a mere junk that had piled up and the same is now going into opposition parties”.
“Don’t get carried away by the situation. I swear by Almighty that our party is as strong as ever. I invite young and educated lot to come forward and join the PDP for the resolution of the Kashmir issue,” she said.
The PDP was hit by a rebellion soon after its former ally—the Bharatiya Janata Party—withdrew support to it on June 19 last year, bringing sudden end to the Mehbooba-led government.
She has since been struggling to keep the flock together, with many senior leaders deserting the party and joining either the National Conference or the Peoples Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone.
The rebellion has even crept in at the lower ranks in the PDP and spread from northern to southern Kashmir, while hitting the party in Jammu as well.
Without naming anyone, Mehbooba also spilled the beans about her party colleagues trying to dislodge her and form a government with the BJP after the demise of her father in 2016.
“I was not ready to ally with BJP again,” she claimed. “I had set the conditions before forming the government, like return of power projects, evacuation of land under army’s control at several places and several other things. But these very people, who today make a hue and cry, went to Nagpur (RSS headquarters) and told them to leave me aside as they are ready to break the PDP and form a government with BJP. That time they compromised my position despite the fact that the BJP had agreed to fullfil some of these conditions.”
“These people are power-hungry and can go to any extent for power,” she said.
Mehbooba also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “wasting the mandate of people”.
“He (Modi) had promised to follow the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpyaee which prompted us to take a massive risk of allying with the BJP and putting our party at stake. We were of the opinion that he (Modi) will carry forward a political process on Kashmir, but he didn’t live up to the promise,” she said.