Shoots of peace sprouting in Jammu Kashmir; right time for talks, says Mehbooba

Indian Union Minister Jitendra Singh had said that there is “no such thing as the Kashmir issue.”

Srinagar: Shoots of peace are “sprouting” in Jammu and Kashmir and the government is now working towards ensuring that the people in the state can be uplifted with dignity, state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said.

In an interview with the news agency PTI, Mehbooba welcomed recent attempts by the Indian government and the ruling party to reach out to Kashmiris, starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech where he asked the countrymen to embrace their brothers and sisters in Jammu and Kashmir.

This was followed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that the Centre is willing to hold talks with all stakeholders, then BJP leader Ram Madhav saying talks can be held with anyone.

In his “Mann ki Baat” speech on Sunday, PM Modi also praised a poor Kashmiri youth, Bilal Dar, for his attempt to clean up a lake, which became front page news in Kashmir and heavily discussed on social media.

“These are welcome signs” in Kashmir Valley where people are eagerly waiting for peace to return, the chief minister said.

“The shoots of peace have started sprouting. They have to be watered and fertilized, and I am sure that the fruits of peace will follow,” she said in the interview at her residence, with a large portrait of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in the background. Mehbooba Mufti succeeded him as the chief minister a few months after his death in January 2016.

Previously, the Indian Union Minister Jitendra Singh had said that there is is need to “change the discourse” around Jammu and Kashmir as there is “no such thing as the Kashmir issue.”

He stressed that the only “point of debate is retrieving Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”

“There is need to change the discourse (on Jammu and Kashmir) for future generations. We have to change the agenda. There is no such issue as Kashmir issue. It is as much a part of India as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or any other state,” Singh said, according to a PTI report.

“The only issue if at all is how to retrieve a part of Kashmir which is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan for the past 70 years and restore the Valley in the same format as was handed over by Maharaja Hari Singh,” Singh said at an event in New Delhi.

He underlined the central government’s “proactive” steps in bringing development to the Valley, especially with respect to “neutralising extremist forces”, the PTI report added.

“The border dwellers, in spite of the hardships they face, have asked us to take strong action against cross-border shelling. We have given our forces confidence and freedom to act on the borders, and the results are for everyone to see.

“We have been able to neutralise many terrorists and foil infiltration bids. Our crackdown on terror funding in the Valley is another step to step towards restoring normalcy in the state,” he said.

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