‘Pellet gun use tied to economics’

Srinagar, September 18:

The Prime Minister NarendraModi had assured me that Article 35A case in the Supreme Court would go to a larger constitutional bench and then put into cold storage, former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Monday.

In an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir, Mehbooba responded to why she didn’t step down when the government of India refused to defend the state subject law in the court, and also talked about her meeting with Prime Minister NarendraModi and union home minister Rajnath Singh on the issue.

“I had got a tip that they (New Delhi) are going to introduce something in the court in the name of women’s rights to dilute the Article 35A. I met the home minister and I met the Prime Minister. I told the Prime Minister that you have committed us that there will be a status quo maintained on Article 370, and if there is any dilution, if you are intending to do such a thing, we can’t go with you. Then the Centre told the Supreme Court that since an interlocutor has been appointed in J&K, let’s put the issue on hold for some time,” she said. “There was a commitment kind of thing that the issue would be taken to four (judge constitutional) bench, five (judge) bench and nine (judge) bench and then ultimately put into cold storage.”

She, however, said that it was unfortunate that attempts were being made to fiddle with the Article 35A.

“It is very unfortunate what they are doing. It is mainstream parties which are fighting on so many fronts here. If you just ignore their anxieties it is bad for the country,” she said. “But this is not for the first time they are doing this. They executed Afzal Guru during Omar Abdullah’s time. Did they think what is going to happen to him (Omar)? They extended National Investigation Agency to J&K in 2009 and now people are being arrested from their homes. That time Congress was at the Centre and they had an alliance here. So it is not about BJP or other party, it is about attitude in Delhi. There is a different mindset.”

She, however, expressed hope that the Centre would restrain from tinkering with the Article. “If they care for people of the state they shouldn’t do it. This Article has got every person even BJP MLAs on same page across J&K. I don’t think they should go against the will of people in united J&K,” Mehbooba said. “They (people in J&K) have already too much on their plate to take care of. They should not do it. It will have serious repercussion which they (Centre) will not be able to handle”.

Asked about her failure to stop use of pellet guns in Kashmir, Mehbooba said that the issue wasn’t about the powerlessness of a chief minister in the state but tied to economics.

“It is not about powerlessness (of CM) but how the system works. It becomes more about economics. Pellet guns were introduced and then other things were tried too. But then they fall back on pellet guns which had been stocked in huge number. I would say it is lack of sympathy in the entire system there (New Delhi),” Mehbooba said.

Courtesy: Greater Kashmir