‘Our number one priority: State funds should reach people’
3 November 2002
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Armed with a law degree from Aligarh Muslim University, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, born on January 12, 1936, entered the political arena. Besides serving as a deputy minister in the G.M Sadiq-led Congress government in the state, he was Union Tourism Minister in 1986 and Union Home Minister in 1989. Now, as the new J&K Chief Minister, he tells Nazir Masoodi that he hopes to heal wounds by bringing militants to the negotiating table. Excerpts from the interview: The general impression is that you are close to militants. Now, as Chief Minister, how are you going to handle this contradiction? There is no question of being close to militants. We have always maintained that the only solution to the Kashmir problem is unconditional dialogue. Our election manifesto and our Common Minimum Programme emphasises this. Our effort is to give a healing touch to the situation. For this, we are taking some confidence building measures. During the poll campaign, candidates of all parties except the PDP were attacked by militants. Critics say this shows the nexus. I don’t see any nexus. Our attitude was sympathetic. I have repeatedly said, even to the PM, that families of killed militants need to be rehabilitated. It is the government’s responsibility to look after their children and educate them. What is your agenda for development and governance in J&K? Our CMP is a political-cum-economic package. Our main priority is to ensure that the funds provided to the state government reach the right people. There will be accountability. Our thrust will be on employment and tourism. Will you change the tradition of dynastic rule in Kashmir or will the PDP go the same way as the NC? Mehbooba and I are not the only two people in the party. The PDP is a movement. Once, Mehbooba was the only party member in the Assembly. Farooq told her he would not allow her to return. We have a galaxy of leaders and are not going to coronate anyone. When your daughter, Rubaiya, was kidnapped during your stint as Union Home Minister, some militants were freed in exchange of her release. That was a tragic incident. As far as the release of militants is concerned, the decision was taken by the then PM, V.P. Singh. Before that, Farooq had released 150 militants. The Congress has a horrific record on Kashmir. How will you give new hope? As far as dialogue is concerned, I must say the Congress has a better record. Will you convince the Centre to announce ceasefire and initiate talks with militant leaders? It is too early to say. I have to consult my Cabinet first and sit with all the parties. I can’t prejudge the situation. But if we do that, it will be good. Earlier, there was a unilateral ceasefire announced by the PM and by Hizbul Mujahideen as well. The Congress has categorically refused to talk to militants before they surrender. On the other hand, your party’s agenda is to ensure their honourable return and initiate unconditional dialogue with them. There are some gray areas but ultimately we have to bring them (militants) around. It will be good if they come to the table and participate in a dialogue. We will see...we have not resolved that issue yet. Are you going to work for the inclusion of the Hurriyat in future talks? It is for the Centre to decide. However, I will facilitate a dialogue. You have promised employment to every family. Is it economically viable? We will give productive employment, not government jobs. We will involve educated unemployed youth in some programme. Wherever there is a job vacancy, preference will be given to families which have no bread-winners. You have alleged that jobs were on sale during the Abdullah regime. How will you get rid of corrupt bureaucrats without being accused of political victimisation? Justice will be done and matters will be institutionalised. We will discuss it in the Cabinet. If I tell you everything, what will I discuss with the Cabinet. If violence is stepped up, how will you handle it? My report is that violence is on the decline. The figures which have been given to me show that violence related incidents are decreasing.