“We want to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue. We are ready for any kind of dialogue within the constitutional framework… If necessary, we are even willing to hold a dialogue within the framework of humanity… We will not use any agent for resolving the issue, we will do everything to resolve it with the cooperation of the state government,” said Singh.
Seeking the Congress’s support in this context, he also reiterated the government’s commitment to repatriation and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.
Singh was replying to a debate on the functioning of the Home Ministry during which several members spoke about Kashmir, invoking former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s statement about resolving the Kashmir issue “within the ambit of humanity”.
On demands for revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said there is “no consensus” on the issue. Singh also emphasised the government’s willingness to talk to Pakistan to stop infiltration.
He added that the government is also willing to talk to Maoists as well as insurgents in the Northeast if they lay down arms. “Violence will not be tolerated so there can be no dialogue till these people shun arms,” he said.
The minister asserted that the government does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, gender or religion and is committed to providing governance within the ambit of humanity by ensuring food, employment and security for all.
He blamed the recent spate of communal violence in the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, on votebank politics. The government is willing to take all measures to establish communal harmony in Uttar Pradesh, he said.
Earlier, several members including CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and Independent MP Mohammed Adeeb expressed concern about rising incidents of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh. Several members made a strong case for police reforms and many highlighted the issue of Muslims being targeted by law enforcing agencies.
Meanwhile, the mainstream political parties in Kashmir welcomed Singh’s statement. “They (BJP) need to take forward the Vajpayee initiative,” said PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar. “Militancy or no militancy, the Kashmir problem has remained since independence and we need to get it out of the way.”
The ruling National Conference said it was a good beginning. “We have always welcomed the initiatives which are aimed at peaceful settlement of the Kashmir problem,” said NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar. “Both the internal and external dimensions of the problem should be taken into consideration. The separatists should also be involved in it”.
The separatists, however, said the term “within the constitution” renders the statement meaningless. “On one hand they talk about the ambit of humanity, and on the other the Indian Constitution. It is a contradiction,” said Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. “If they are talking about within the ambit of humanity, they should address the Kashmir issue and accept the demand of people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Yasin Malik said, “There can be no talks within the Constitution of India. What has been the outcome of talks we had in past — with the Congress and BJP. It is a waste of time.”