By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on Monday called for dialogue between India and Pakistan, and blamed the Indian media for creating an atmosphere of mistrust and war.
Speaking at the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Mufti said: “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end the bloodshed.
“I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight but that doesn’t matter. The people of J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] are suffering. We have to talk because war is not an option.”
Mufti is the highest-elected official in the disputed valley and is in a coalition government with the Hindu rightwing Bhartiya Janata Party that rules India.
Mufti and her party came under severe criticism and lost the majority of their supporters in the region after the coalition since one of their primary planks for the 2014 elections was to stop the march of rightwing BJP to the Muslim majority, Jammu and Kashmir, region.
Her appeal for dialogue comes in the wake of increasing border clashes along the Line of Control (LoC) between the two countries, as well as militant attacks on Indian armed forces installations in the region, and the increased number of killings of civilian protesters by Indian forces.
“Our borders are witnessing, god forbid, a bloodbath. Our Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] often talks of development but at the same time, something opposite is happening in our state.
“Our schools are shut and children are trapped inside their homes.”
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir. Also in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.
Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.