What’s your response to the Gupkar declaration?
Our country and our Constitution allows people the freedom of expression. As far as I am concerned, my attention is less on this and more on development. People have suffered for 70 years, while there are those who send their children abroad to study, go there for treatment. The common man has no such facilities. Our focus is on creating good hospitals, industry and schools to generate employment and improve quality of living.
And on the question of Article 370?
Many people have gone to the Supreme Court on this issue. I expect that people who have at some point taken an oath in the name of the Constitution should also keep their faith in the Supreme Court and await its decision.
How do you respond to Mehbooba Mufti’s comment on the Tricolour?
I will say again that people who have at some point taken oath in the name of the Constitution, must remember its ‘maryada’. May god give them the good sense to remember the oath they have taken.
What are your views on full statehood?
The home minister has said it in Parliament and the PM in his address to the country — that in due time statehood will be given. There’s no reason to not believe them.
What’s your approach to reopening political dialogue?
My doors are open and I am always willing to talk to all stakeholders — whether it’s the common man at our border villages or our political leaders here. We have also, in fact, been holding discussions with people from all walks of life, over the last three months.
When do you think assembly polls can be held?
The Delimitation Commission is doing its job. Some people are unnecessarily trying to mislead. Besides J&K, there are four northeast states for which delimitation is being done. Once that’s over, the Election Commission is empowered to conduct elections. The prime minister spoke on this on Independence Day. Hence, no one should have any doubts.
But local body elections are to be held soon?
Yes, these would be notified on November 3. This is an important area for me. The Panchayati Raj system calls for a three-tier system but J&K unfortunately had a two-tier one. We have now made necessary amendments to have an elected district development council. Elections to these will also be held. These are big steps towards deepening grassroots democracy.
What do you make of the Roshni Act order?
It’s an example of how influential people have cornered public resources. The High Court order is an eye-opener. We have cancelled all allotments and directed that the land will be taken over by the government. I have instructed the revenue department to implement the order within a month.
What does this tell us about corruption in J&K?
It’s true that corruption is a big issue in J&K. I am not saying that’s not the case elsewhere, but it seems like J&K has become the favourite destination for corruption. In the Roshni case, the High Court talks of how 3.4 canal land of the 3.48 canal government land were doled out at throwaway prices to influential people. I am clear that there will be zero tolerance to corruption. The corrupt must be brought to book. No one will be spared.
You have also amended land laws?
Yes, the land laws have been amended. They are now largely similar to those in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Also, to understand the changes made, please see these amendments in the light of the Roshni Act controversy and the recent High Court order. Please note that nearly 88% land in J&K is agricultural. We have made it very clear that not an inch of agricultural land will be given to any outsider.
We have earmarked 6000 hectares for industry. In fact, we will soon come out with a new industrial policy — the Union finance ministry has given its approval and we are waiting for Cabinet to approve the same. We are confident that the policy will bring business of over Rs 25,000-30,000 crore to J&K. Several big business houses are already in touch with us to build industrial estates, IT parks and medi-cities.
Your assessment of the security situation?
It’s much better than before. Our neighbour keeps attempting to create unrest but people have got fed up. If you look at it geographically, only 10% area in Kashmir division is under the influence of terrorism. Our forces are, however, alert.
How do you respond to complaints of excesses by security forces?
I think deliberate attempts are being made to create such a perception. There is considerable goodwill for the Army and the CRPF — especially in border areas where they have done immense work for the people. Sometimes incidents do happen, some knowingly, others unknowingly; but as a country, we don’t need lessons from anyone. If there is a mistake made, we will admit it and correct it. My principle: Begunah ko chedo mat, aur gunahgar ko chhodo mat (Innocent should not be made to suffer and the guilty should not be spared).