Finally, ‘toffee’ comment gets an ‘apology’ wrap
Srinagar: Facing severe criticism over her ‘toffee’ and ‘milk’ remark former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday apologised for her remark, saying she was concerned for ‘her children being pushed to rallies where they got injured’.
“Didn’t I have this right to tell these children in a loud voice that you were part of my rallies… why were you asked to stand in the front of those rallies (protest demonstrations) where you, God forbid, got injured,” the former CM said while addressing her workers on the death anniversary of her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
“I still apologise if anyone was hurt,” she said: “What else can I do?”
Mehbooba was widely criticised for her comment during 2016 uprising that the “youth were not going to army camps and police stations to buy ‘toffee and milk’.
She made the comment while addressing a press conference in Srinagar along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the peak of the uprising triggered by July 8 killing of Hizbul commander BurhanWani.
Facing criticism for her visit to homes of militants, Mehbooba said she had not gone on her own but was invited by people in distress and that her doors are open for all Kashmiris who are in trouble.
“I did not go on my own, I went because I was called by these people. If anyone has problem with my such visits, I will not go but doors of Mehbooba Mufti are open for all Kashmiris who are in trouble or facing any problems,” Mehbooba said addressing party workers on the third death anniversary of her father and PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at his graveyard in Bijbehara town of Anantnag district.
Referring to the criticism she faced for visiting the families of militants, the PDP president said two former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) — live on the same road where she lives and yet the people in distress choose to meet her.
“A few days ago, some people from a family came to me. Where I live (in Srinagar), two other former chief ministers also live — Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah. They did not go to them but to me. What can I do? They told me that one of their wards is a militant but security forces have arrested his sister, brother-in-law and another brother. I assured them that I will speak to the DGP about it.
“But I also thought what will happen to other people (suffering the same fate). They said you should visit our home and it will send a message to entire Kashmir. Otherwise, which former chief minister will go from village to village,” she said.
“I do not want anyone to outrage the modesty of my sisters and daughters. I went there and two people were released. The Governor ordered an inquiry into the matter to ascertain whether any excesses had been committed. Then Safanagari people heard about it and they called me. They told me that their militant son has been killed but the security forces have arrested his brother now,” she said.
The PDP president claimed that in her 26 months as chief minister, she was allowed to work for only two months.
“Out of two years and two months (as chief minister), I was allowed to work for only two months. You know the situation in 2014 and the devastation unleashed by floods. Today, you are able to travel between Islamabad (Anantnag) and Srinagar within minutes. Today there is a medical college in Islamabad and another one in Baramulla. Today there is a passport office in Islamabad (Anantnag),” she said.
Mehbooba said her government restored the infrastructure damaged in the floods and also decided to regularise the services of 60,000 daily wagers.
“What can I do if the orders to this effect (regularisation) are not being issued now (by the Governor’s administration). 10,000 youths were recruited in police. I did whatever I could but one thing I must tell you that I did not compromise,” she said.
The PDP president said besides withdrawing FIRs against 12,000 youths in stone-pelting cases, she convinced the Centre to announce a one-month ceasefire in the state.
“I made the BJP government (at the Centre) to announce ceasefire for one month. Everyone was home comfortably. There was no shots fired from this side (security forces) but firing came from the other side (militants). If I had another opportunity, I would have got the ceasefire for six months,” she said.
On the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Mehbooba said she did not compromise and did not hand the case over to the CBI.
“I did not compromise on Kathua case. I got two (BJP) ministers dropped and did not hand the case over to CBI as I had apprehensions that it (Kathua case) will meet the same fate as the Shopian case (alleged rape and murder of two women in 2009),” she said.
Mehbooba said she had FIRs registered against the Army and security forces wherever they erred and that the “BJP could not bear it”.
“Had I compromised on these issues, this government would have lasted full six years,” she said.
Mehbooba said she would have relinquished power long ago but wanted to fulfil the promises made to the people and her party workers.
“When I have workers like you, I do not need anything. I would have kicked the chair long ago but I remained patient for you. I wanted a proper livelihood for you. It should not be like you will sweep the hospitals and there is no salary to be paid. I wanted it such that whether I remain in office or not, you should get salaries,” she added.
The PDP president said she repeatedly told the Prime Minister that the situation in Kashmir will not improve unless the Centre holds dialogue with Pakistan and separatists.
“I convinced the Union Home Minister on this and he stated this in Parliament a few days ago. The Home Minister said he was ready for unconditional talks with Hurriyat Conference. What else could I have done? We can only take a horse to the water but we cannot force it to drink,” she said.
On several leaders deserting her party, she said that “the party is not weakened as they (other parties) are collecting trash” from PDP.
Mainstream politicians cutting across party lines paid tribute to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who died in 2016. Among those who paid tributes to the PDP founder were National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah and Peoples Conference chairman SajadGani Lone. (with PTI inputs)