The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti U-turn on Hurriyat

Jammu, Nov. 5: The chair has made the difference. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed does not recognise the separatist All-Parties Hurriyat Conference as the “representative” of people of the state.

“They have not proved that,” he told a questioner on the opening day of the civil secretariat and other government offices for the winter months in Jammu, the state’s winter capital.

To another question whether the Hurriyat were a political force to reckon with, Mufti sought shelter in “no comments”.

Mufti, who was sworn in as the ninth chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, had been a keen votary of giving due recognition to the Hurriyat in state politics. His logic then was: “They are a force to reckon with.”

After coming to power, he first gave up his plans of disbanding the special operations group of the state police and doing away with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Area Act in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, Mufti is talking of “peace with dignity” and his commitment to fight the forces inimical to peace.

The chief minister has also said his advocacy of unconditional talks with all sections of people was part of his “multi-pronged strategy” to bring peace in Kashmir. The fight against militants will continue.

“I am not going for witch-hunt. I am not going to dig old graves,” he said, in a reference to the National Conference. But he listed “clean administration” as his “top priority”.

“We are accountable and anyone caught tampering with the system or injecting corruption would be brought to book. There would be no intervention from my or my ministerial colleagues’ side.”

The opening of the secretariat was marked by protests by the Jammu Statehood Morcha and the BJP. “We are protesting against the betrayal of Congress to the people of Jammu,” said Shree Kumar, convener of the morcha. The Congress had promised Jammu its first chief minister and instead got “a deputy chief minister — that, too, with the insignificant ministry of industry”.

“Most of the industries in the state are sick,” Shree Kumar said.

Ramazan ceasefire

Mufti said he favours a “unilateral” Ramazan ceasefire. In reply to a question he said: “The Centre has announced such a ceasefire in the past as a good gesture and they can do it again.” Asked if he would urge the Centre to make the announcement, he said: “I had not given it a thought.”

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