Mufti Vs Delhi: Tussle Is Over, At Least For Now
4 December 2002
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has persuaded the Central government to give him time and freedom to reduce the sense of alienation amongst the people of the state and create conditions for a healthy dialogue between the Centre and the separatists. Mr Sayeed, who met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and deputy prime minister L.K. Advani during his hectic visit to New Delhi, made it clear to them that the state government was not working at cross-purposes with the Centre. An experienced politician, the chief minister has secured the green signal to continue with the release of militants after full scrutiny and to disband the Special Operations Group by merging it into the regular police force. There will be no screening committee to oversee the release of militants although both Mr Vajpayee and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had spoken in favour of this. The palpable tension between the state and Central governments, further reinforced by the concerted attack launched by the BJP and the VHP, has eased considerably following Mr Sayeed’s visit. The NDA government has released Rs 100 crores for the state and has assured Mr Sayeed that it will bear the extra cost of increased power generation through the gas turbine till April next year. The monthly expenditure for this comes to Rs 30 crores for the state government, which was particularly keen to ensure an improved supply of power for the people of the state through the winter months. Mr Sayeed met ministers Nitish Kumar and Pramod Mahajan to pursue old and new projects for the state. The state government has asked the Centre for compensation as the water due to it is being diverted to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. It is also taking up the demand for electricity from the Northern Grid and increasing pressure for the completion of the lines from Jammu to Srinagar. Interestingly, several projects are lying in dusty files that are being given a fresh look by the Mufti government. Amongst these are projects to raise the employment capacity of an old Indian telephone industry concern from a mere 180 people to the level of thousands. Another is to set up information technology centres at bloc levels, for which Rs 65 crores had been allotted but not used by the earlier National Conference government. The state government remains committed to the “healing touch” with sources insisting that there has been no review of addressing the alienation of the people of the state. The SOG is contributing to increased militancy, according to the Mufti government’s assessment, as it has added to the sense of alienation through extortion and human rights violations. The process has begun to absorb it into the regular police force. The state police has also received instructions from the new government to bring a “human face” to policing and introduce innovative methods of interrogation. The stress is on a pro-people change of attitude. The Jammu and Kashmir government is particularly keen for talks to begin between the Centre and the separatists as well as the elected representatives. However, the date and the timing has been left to the Centre to decide. Talks with Pakistan are being left entirely to New Delhi with the PDP-Congress government not even discussing the issue. Similarly, autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir is also being kept out of the political discourse for the moment with the state government willing to talk on devolution of power, but not with BJP leader Arun Jaitley. Mr Sayeed has still not appointed a representative to carry on the talks on this issue, largely because this move by the former chief minister had been rejected as a gimmick by the people of the state.