Kashmir college tension a non-issue, says CM Mehbooba

Jammu, April 8 (IANS) Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday dismissed the trouble between local and outside students in a Kashmir college as a “non-issue”, being highlighted by certain people as a “communal incident”.

In an interview with ETV News Network here, Mehbooba, who heads the PDP-BJP ruling combine, said she had expressed the same view to central Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani after violent protests erupted at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar following India’s loss to the West Indies in a T20 cricket match last week.

Non-local students in the college had objected to and carried out demonstrations against celebrations over the victory of the Caribbeans that saw India out of the T20 world championship.

Mehbooba said that she informed Irani that a handful of non-resident students at the college were “keen to migrate” to other colleges outside the state.

Mehbooba, who took over as the first woman chief minister of the state early this week, also appreciated the “bold public statement” by hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who had appealed for calm at the college. Geelani had asked Kashmiri students at the college to take care of the safety of outsiders as “guests of Kashmir”.

She said she had in her first meeting with her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministerial colleagues stressed on the need to “underplay some unfortunate and uncalled for incidents like NIT”.

“Ultimately, we have to run a coalition government in the state,” she said, according to ETV.

The chief minister hoped that normalcy will be restored soon at the college where classwork has been hit amid deployment of paramilitary forces in the campus.

Mehbooba said that her priorities were “communal harmony, peace and development” in the state to “restore the confidence of the people” in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-BJP alliance.

She also expressed her faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, she said, “wants to change the development face of the valley”. She still cautioned the central government about Jammu and Kashmir being a “different state”.

“It is not an another Indian state. Here the ground realities are a bit different and therefore, the state deserves a special attention and care.”

She said she was keen to create one more “Wagha Border” point in Kashmir, like the one on the India-Pakistan border in Amritsar for free movement of people of the divided region.

She said she wanted to create a historic monument on the Line of Control (LoC) – a de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan – to attract tourists.

She said that she would take up the issue at the appropriate level of opening a Jammu-Sialkot route to promote local trade between Pakistan and the border areas of Kashmir.

That, she said, would improve the ties between the two neighbours.

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