A senior pro-democracy leader in Kashmir said India’s promise to hold new elections in the territory must be accompanied by the release of political prisoners and other measures to restore public confidence.
Mehbooba Mufti, the former Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, also called for a financial support package to help repair the region’s battered economy after Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, express intent to restore its elected government.
“They need to reach out to people, so [they] “He can see that something is moving forward,” Mufti said in an interview with the Financial Times following talks between Kashmiri leaders and the central government. “Otherwise, it will look like a photograph.”
Modi caused severe disruption to Kashmir and its tourism-based economy in August 2019 when the government announced suddenly canceled A constitutional provision guaranteeing the political independence of India’s only Muslim-majority state, which has been marred by a separatist insurgency backed by Pakistan.
New Delhi directly took control and evacuated more than 20,000 Indian and foreign tourists from Kashmir, claiming that a terrorist threatHe put local residents under lockdown and suspended mobile or internet services for several months.
Several prominent Kashmiri politicians were arrested, including the Mufti, who spent 14 months in custody and house arrest.
Modi and Amit Shah, India’s home minister, met Kashmir’s pro-democracy leaders last week for the first time since a political reorganization to present plans for new elections. However, they did not stick to a timetable and said that there would first be a process to redraw its electoral map.
India is under pressure to restore democracy in Kashmir while participating in it Back channel conversations With Pakistan to improve relations between the two countries, which have fought three wars on the region.
The Modi government is also grappling with growing strategic pressures firm china and the imminent withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The Mufti was cautiously optimistic that last week’s meeting marked the beginning of a process to improve conditions, but he criticized Indian authorities for using national security and counter-terrorism laws to quash public discourse about Autonomy of Kashmir.
“They did something that we think is illegal and unconstitutional, but you are forbidden even to talk about it,” she added.
The mufti said she had urged Modi to give Kashmiris “breathing space” to express themselves. “People really feel chokingShe said. “How long can people keep their anger inside? It can explode at any time.”
The Mufti said that since taking control of the region, New Delhi has pushed through laws to make it easier for foreigners to obtain residency, get local government jobs and buy property.
She added that these changes reinforced fears that the government wants to change the demographic character of Kashmir and reduce the indigenous people to a minority in their country of origin.
The Mufti said that New Delhi should refrain from imposing new laws on the region until an elected government is formed.
“People are really scared,” she said. “All kinds of laws come that further weaken the people of the state.”
The Grand Mufti also reiterated her commitment to restoring Kashmir’s political independence, which she said is necessary to ensure “the security of our resources, our jobs and especially our identity.”