Srinagar: Hitting out at separatists, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said they rake up unnecessary controversies over Article 370 of the Constitution and asked them to rather focus on protecting the people and the environment of the state.
She also made it clear that dialogue with separatists can take place only after "the situation improves".
"I am surprised that (Muslim) preachers talk so big about Article 370 (in their sermons). What is Article 370? It is of significance only if we are at peace," Mehbooba said in the Assembly while replying to a debate on demand for grants for departments under her charge.
In an apparent reference to Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is the chief priest of Kashmir and gives sermons after Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid, the Chief Minister said it was not for the preachers to look after the special provisions of the Constitution with regard to the state but for the mainstream political parties of the state.
"What are they talking about safeguarding Article 370... They are looking for something else. It is we (pointing towards MLAs) who have to protect it. It is our shared inheritance and nothing in it will change," she said.
Mehbooba said the preachers do not talk about harassment of women and girls in the society nor do they mention enviromental degradation in their sermons.
"I also belong to the family of preachers. We have to strive for protecting the environment and the water bodies. For years, we dumped our garbage in River Jhelum and it retaliated by dumping it back in our homes for 10 days (by floods). But we still did not learn any lessons," she said.
The PDP chief also hit out at opposition National Conference and Congress for repeatedly questioning her party's alliance with BJP and asserted that she will enter into such a coalition thousands of times if it brought peace with dignity to the state.
"The alliance with the BJP was taken to respect the mandate of the people. We cannot have a government of one religion (sic) and opposition of another religion. I will form this alliance thousands of times if it helps in restoring peace with dignity in the state," she said.
Mehbooba said she did not need to justify her party's alliance with the BJP everytime as it was her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's decision.
"For me, this decision is engraved in stone. He (Sayeed) has always taken difficult decisions during his 60-year career and he did not make U-turns. If we are in (such a) situation, it is due to the constant U-turns of some (leaders)," she said, targeting the opposition.
The Chief Minister said it was the endeavour of her government to provide good governance with accountability along with a sustained political process.
"If we give only good governance without political process or a political process without good governance, it will not work. We have to do both simultaneously but for that you have to give us some time," she said.
"There are so many challenges on political, security, development, economic and administrative fronts confronting Jammu and Kashmir. We will have to provide not just good governance, but ensure proactive and pro-people governance to address the enormous challenges confronting the state," Mehbooba added.
She said while she was for dialogue to resolve issues, the situation should improve for such a process to be started.
"The tourism has started reviving.. We want dialogue but let the situation improve," she added.
The Chief minister again hit out at some TV news channels for negative portrayal of the situation in the state.
"While they did not find the valour of a boatman, who drowned while saving tourists, worthy of a story, they held a discussion when some pilgrims were accidentally caught in stone pelting on police," she said, referring to a recent incident in Srinagar.
"May be some vested interests from other states, who want to crush the tourism industry of our state, are behind it (negative coverage)," Mehbooba added.
On the amnesty to stone-pelters, she said the government was reviewing all cases since 2008. "Those not involved in heinous crimes will be released and some may be released before Eid," she said.
The Chief Minister appealed the opposition to set aside political differences and help in the government efforts for bringing back Kashmiri Pandits to the valley.
"We will continue fighting elections against each other but let us work together to bring back Kashmiri Pandits," she said.
Referring to the demand of Pandit community for opening Sharda Peeth pilgrimage to Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Mehbooba said she will take up the matter with the Centre so that it can be opened to Pandit pilgrims from this side.
On the demand of legislators for salary hike, the Chief Minister said she will ask the Finance Minister to explore the possibility of doubling it.
"I will ask the Finance Minister to double the salaries of the legislators if there is scope for it," she said.
With regard to demand for raising the constituency development fund from current Rs 1.5 crore per year to Rs five crore, Mehbooba said the MLAs should not seek everything in one go.
She commended the army, police and paramilitary forces for having done a commendable job in bringing peace to the state.
Stressing the need for making the police force professional, the Chief Minister said it will be equipped with the state-of-the art technologies to ensure speedier crime detection, traffic management, investigations and busting of drug trafficking rackets.
Describing journalism as an inseparable pillar of accountable governance, the Chief Minister said the state will promote free and fair journalism.
She said she will revive the proposal of developing Press Club at Srinagar.
"I will also go over the State Advertisement and Empanelment policies to promote institution of journalism," she stated.
She also announced shifting of Central Jail out of Srinagar and Jammu cities and said the premises would be developed to create recreational facilities for the locals.