Land integration isn't enough, government must emotionally integrate Kashmiris, says Mehbooba's daughter Iltija Mufti
Speaking over the phone from Chennai where she lives with her aunt Rubiya Sayeed, Iltija said that she feels suffocated when she visits Kashmir
'The government should speak to common Kashmiris and address their concerns. It should reach out to the people emotionally'
'Everyone in Kashmir feels suffocated. Whenever I visit Kashmir, I also feel suffocated. My life is not normal'
'People are incurring so much loss and unless you want to purposely break everyone's back financially, the government isn't on the right path'
Iltija Mufti, daughter of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, said on Saturday that it was high time that the Government of India reach out to Kashmiris, end the security blockade in the Valley and resume basic services like internet facilities.
Speaking over the phone from Chennai where she lives with her aunt Rubiya Sayeed, Iltija said that she feels suffocated when she visits Kashmir. "I am not speaking about my mother. The government should speak to common Kashmiris and address their concerns. It should reach out to the people emotionally. Emotional integration is what is important and not the type that the Centre talks about — that land has been integrated. What binds the country together is a feeling of empathy and not the borders. That feeling of empathy is lacking for Kashmiris right now," she said.
Iltija said that although the Union Territory administration shifted her mother from one detention facility to another on her request as the one at Cheshmashahi was not equipped for winters, the meetings of the family members with the former chief minster have been reduced to only twice a week. "I will fight for my mother everyday and every hour. It has been three months that I have been fighting for her rights," she said.
Iltija added that even her grandmother, who lives at the Mehbooba's official residence at Fairview Gupkar was not allowed to meet the PDP president very often.
"My grandmother is 84 years old, she has hypertension and is diabetic. She is also a mother. She can't see my mother often and I am trying to speak to the administration about this. The prime minister of this country goes and sees his mother and it is a very sweet sight, they share their meals and talk. My grandmother is also someone's mother. Does she not have the right to see her daughter? How would my grandmother have been feeling while meeting her daughter for three months in a jail?," she asked, "While in detention the doctors had done a couple of tests on my mother and they were concerned as her condition was not good. She had low blood pressure."
Mehbooba's daughter said that she was also kept under surveillance whenever she visited Kashmir and was briefly detained at her family's official residence in Srinagar in August and the government relaxed the restrictions on her only after she approached the Supreme Court.
"After I went to the Supreme Court earlier in August seeking to meet my mother, the special security group (SSG) didn't trouble me. Earlier too I was illegally detained at my house and was not allowed to move out. After I came with the court order, they didn't trouble me. There are designated days and only on those days can we meet my mother. In the past three months I have met my mother only five or six times. My sister who lives with me in Chennai has not been able to meet her. We still don’t know how long will my mother continue to be in the jail," she said.
"Everyone in Kashmir feels suffocated. Whenever I visit Kashmir, I also feel suffocated. My life is not normal. Wherever I have to go I have to first inform the security people. Nothing of this is normal. To go and meet my mother, I have to seek permissions. I think my basic rights have been downgraded. I am subjected to surveillance whenever I go to meet my mother in Kashmir," she added.
Iltija went on to add that the government should talk to civil society members and reach out to the people of Kashmir and end the blockade in the Valley. "The concerns of Kashmiris need to be addressed. They feel that that they have faced an assault on their identity, but nobody is talking about that. Kashmiris have the right to express their concerns. What has given us pain has given sadistic pleasure to most of the country. At some point, you have to emotionally integrate people as well. When will the Government of India begin an emotional outreach. That can't be done by the jawans who are carrying out patrols. The onus lies on the Indian government," she said.
Iltija noted that the Centre has removed the "buffer" in Kashmir by detaining mainstream leaders. "The people's anger will now be directed towards the Government of India. Now that the buffer has been removed and there is no middle ground and politicians are not free, the onus lies on the government to address concerns. During the 2008 and 2010 agitations in Kashmir, the local politicians took the blame, but now the emotional grudge in Kashmir — which is increasing with every passing day — needs to be removed. That doesn’t happen by changing the borders," she said.
"They have to remove the blockade. People are incurring so much loss and unless you want to purposely break everyone's back financially, the government isn't on the right path. But if the government is saying that the Kashmir has not developed for several years, then they need to talk. There is a huge problem of internet access. Why have broadband services not been restored in Kashmir as in Jammu? How many problems does the press in Kashmir face due to internet blockades? People are saying that their business has been affected. They are pleading for a normal life."
Iltija said that the she doesn't think the government has a road map to end the standoff in Kashmir. "Does the Centre have a blueprint? I don’t see one. The government should start engaging with civil society members. It should free lawyers and businessmen and talk to them. How long can it sustain the censorship and act like a communist regime. The government has provided internet in its offices, but why doesn't it trust the people? There is a trust deficit and that trust deficit can't be removed by deploying more military and increasing surveillance," she said.
"If the government says people are fatigued due to the unrest, the fatigue will also enter the administration. For how long will the situation continue like this? Three months have already passed," she sighed.
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