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Cover Story

'Separatists are gaining ground'

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In an exclusive interview to TOI-Crest, the PDP's Mehbooba Mufti says it is Omar Abdullah's misgovernance that is at the root of the present crisis. She also warns against treating it merely as a security problem.

Do you agree with the view that anti-national forces and Lashkar groups are behind the recent trouble in Kashmir?

It's an insult to the people of Kashmir to say that. People are out on the streets because they have a genuine grievance. Young boys are being killed. Can we ignore the mood on the streets? Vested interests have always been there to create trouble. They are a part and parcel of Kashmir. Why are we blaming these forces now? The problem is we always try to simplify things and deal with Kashmir through the security prism.

What is your view then?

Poor governance, mismanagement and corruption. The present government works only for newspaper headlines. Omar (Abdullah) doesn't have vision or political astuteness. Kashmir is a complex state. We will have crises. The question is: how do you manage them? Mufti saheb tried to bridge the gap between the people of Kashmir and Delhi. But Omar is not accessible even to his own people. He should have had a common minimum programme that would have given direction to his government. He claims there has been development, but he has not started anything new during his tenure. All the projects he talks about were started by previous governments.

How has the situation deteriorated so quickly in two years after a successful election in 2008?
It shows what one man can do. If the situation can improve in two years (under the Mufti government), then why can't it go bad in two years? There is so much frustration, anger and alienation among people today. When Mufti saheb came to power in 2002, there was hope. Now there is despair.

Do you feel that the separatists are gaining because of the present crisis?

Definitely they will gain. Mainstream political parties have been marginalised. We feel cornered. Our leaders can't go out on the streets. They call us Hindustani kutte. If people are disenchanted with mainstream politicians, where will they go except to the separatists? But don't make the mistake of thinking that the separatists are leading the mobs. They are being led by the mobs. This is the mood on the streets of Kashmir. .

Is the azadi slogan back then?

It will always be there unless we find an alternative to it. The violence and protests we see today are mostly the outcome of the disillusionment and frustration of two years of misgovernance and corruption.

What can be done to bring the situation under control?

It has to be done through the political process. Don't treat this as an intelligence problem or a security problem. We have had three elections since 1996. If the government is still asking for the army to control the situation on the streets, there is something wrong with its governance.

What would you do?

The trouble is Delhi has always tried to make a pappu out of everyone in Kashmir. They have always tried to discredit mainstream Kashmiri politicians. We are not allowed to behave like a Jayalalitha or a Karunanidhi. We cannot be seen to be begging Delhi for everything. We must be in control. The agenda for Kashmir must be seen to be dictated from Kashmir, not from Delhi.

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