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We Have Shown the Intent to Talk, Ball is in Hurriyat's Court Now: J&K Deputy CM Kavinder Gupta

By: Aakash Hassan

Edited By: Aditya Nair

Last Updated: June 08, 2018, 17:22 IST

Deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Kavinder Gupta.

Deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Kavinder Gupta.

In this no-holds-barred exclusive interview, his first since becoming the deputy CM of the state, Kavinder Gupta talks about a range of issues — from rehabilitating Kashmiri youth who have joined militancy to talks with Hurriyat and also Article 370.

Srinagar: Kavinder Gupta has replaced Nirmal Singh as the deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at a very interesting time.

The PDP-BJP coalition has just crossed its halfway tenure and in this period, the state has seen Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani’s killing that prompted a two-year-long unrelenting cycle of violence, politics over the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, controversies over article 370, a spike in clashes and now a "Ramzan Ceasefire".

In this no-holds-barred exclusive interview, his first since becoming the deputy CM of the state, Kavinder Gupta talks about a range of issues. He claims that the state has done all it can to initiate talks and the ball was now in Hurriyat’s court, explains why his party has gone silent on article 370 after raking it up and wishes that the ongoing "Ramzan Ceasefire" would continue forever.

The PDP-BJP alliance, which Mufti Mohammed Sayeed described as the "meeting of North and South Pole", has just crossed the halfway mark. Do you think the alliance will last all the way?

It is true that we, the coalition partners, have very different ideologies and the BJP hasn’t wavered from its core principles till today. It is equally true that the government is functioning smoothly because of its development-oriented agenda. This is why the government has gone on for so long and I believe that we will complete our six-year tenure with the same mission.

What have been the big challenges for BJP in this coalition?

We felt that the people of Jammu and Ladakh had been discriminated against by successive governments till we took over. Previous governments had neglected these two regions. People from Jammu had high expectations from us when we came to power in the state and meeting their expectations was our big challenge.

Kashmir is important to us. We will not discriminate against it. So our focus, since forming the government, has been to take all three regions along together.

Do you consider the "Ramzan ceasefire" a success?

The ceasefire seems to be successful in bringing peace despite Pakistan trying to sabotage it. I think the militants have also accepted the ceasefire. I wish it lasts forever.

There have been some painful incidents like that of the youth who was killed after he came under a CRPF vehicle in Srinagar. We feel the pain of these killings. We feel sad about the parents, it hurts us too. But we have to understand there is a power provoking these youths.

I think the ceasefire is a great opportunity for all of us. Political parties, social organizations, civil society should play an active role. The Home Minister has even asked Hurriyat to join him for talks.

Now, it is up to them. If they truly want peace in Kashmir, they must come forward for the talks.

Local youth continue to join militant ranks in large number, even during the ceasefire, how do you see this?

It is the need of the hour to bring local boys joining terror groups into the mainstream. As I said, political parties, parents and civil society have the most important role to play in this situation. We have to find ways to wean the youth away from the gun.

It is being alleged that Kashmir’s youth face regular harassment at the hands of government forces and that compels them to join militancy. Do you think there have been excesses by forces?

Our security personnel don’t want to come out of their barracks unless they are provoked. There might be some cases of excesses and harassment by the forces, and those will have to be taken care of.

Even I will advocate revocation of AFSPA, as it has been revoked in some parts of the country. I want people to live in a peaceful manner here.

Kathua case created a political storm in the state. How do you look back at the incident and the events that followed it?

Honestly, whatever happened in Kathua should not have happened. She was our daughter as well. Some people, though, had begun scoring political points out of it. We want justice for the girl. May God save us from such horrific incidents in future.

It was a shameful act. Our heads hang in shame. We the people of Jammu and Kashmir believe in Sufiyat and are humble by nature. There have been these kind of incidents in other states but not in ours. This cannot be tolerated. Those who are involved should be given an exemplary punishment. Also, our Prime Minister took an extraordinary step by advocating for capital punishment to those who are involved in such ghastly incidents.

Two of our ministers resigned voluntarily. It shows our seriousness to bring justice to the victim’s family.

After maintaining silence for several months on the issue of article 370, BJP leaders recently demanded its repeal. Now, the party leaders seem to have fallen silent on the issue again. Who made the compromise?

On his very first visit, the Prime Minister said in very clear terms that if Article 370 separated Kashmir from India it would be undesirable for us, but he also added that if there were some good things in the Article then we were ready to adopt them as well.

The fact is that we can debate and discuss these issues, there is no harm in that. But what matters most right now is to work towards the progress of the state.

Will the talks with Hurriyat happen?

I want to tell separatists that we all are basically Indians. This is a country where hundreds of languages are spoken, people live in diverse cultures, but despite all of that, we are one country. In other countries, people from only a particular community are given importance and that is not the case in India, which is proud of being the world's largest democracy.

If you think of leaving India and going with someone else, that is not possible. They will have to understand this.

Separatists have said that they will talk only if India accepts Kashmir as disputed territory and talks are held with them and Pakistan as well. Do you think it is possible?

We extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan a number of times. Talks can happen. We can talk with Pakistan and separatists in the ambit of the Constitution (of India). What we should discuss with Pakistan is how to get the other part of Kashmir, occupied by them. This is our only issue.

(The author is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist. Views are personal)
first published:June 08, 2018, 17:03 IST
last updated:June 08, 2018, 17:22 IST