Do you think there is a need for a national law on cow slaughter ?
It is under the purview of states. Some states have imposed a ban on cow slaughter and there is a law to deal with such cases. Physical attacks are wrong and I condemned the incident at Alwar… We need to stop cow slaughter, but the biggest stumbling block is who will take care of these cows… We are working on a project for old cows who can longer produce milk. A Project Cow, on the lines of Project Tiger, can be started. Every state can set up a cow sanctuary where they can be sent and sufficient food (chara) is available in these forests. I have discussed the matter with the environment ministry and we plan to expedite this proposal.
As minister in charge of Jammu & Kashmir, do you think the government has the trust of the people of the state?
People of J&K should stay with democracy whether they stay with the government or not. They shall use their rights granted under the Constitution and I don’t think anyone has any objection. If they want to protest against the government, no one is stopping them. As far as students are concerned, not 100 per cent students are involved in stone pelting. Some are being misguided by militant groups linked to Pakistan. Six months ago, 95 per cent of the students of classes X and XII took their exams despite 21 schools being burnt down. But Pakistan doesn’t want the youth of J&K to study and progress. Parents, however, have understood this and that is why so many parents encouraged their children to appear in the exams.
Looking back at the low turnout in the Srinagar bypoll, do you think it was due to fear of militants or was it that they did not want to vote?
There may be many reasons. It is possible that we [government] could not allay fears among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We should encourage people to vote. It appears that an atmosphere of fear was created because of which they did not come out to vote.
There have been videos of jawans being heckled and also of youths being beaten up by security forces. Is the government doing anything about propaganda being circulated?
Whether it is the Army or security forces, there is a widespread sentiment among all Indians that security forces work for the nation. Why is the government considering measures such as Pava or pellet guns? It is because we understand that they are misguided youth. We have taken steps to stop misuse of social media, WhatsApp, 3G and 4G services have been stopped. Some of the propaganda material is also being uploaded from Pakistan.
Do you think it is right to use pellet guns? Is there any alternative?
We have thought about pellet guns. There is always an effort to ensure that those pelting stones are not treated as terrorists. They have been instigated by Pakistan and we are treating them as misguided youths. The government does not look at them as militants. The committee set up last year [at the ministry] has given various suggestions. Pava is being used and pellet guns are used as the second-last resort.
Is the government making any effort to build bridges with the people, separatists and other factions?
As far as separatist are concerned, we try to understand their point of view and make them understand ours. We can never accept division of the country. More efforts are required to win the confidence of the people. The state government was elected after the due process of elections. They are also making efforts. PM Narendra Modi has sanctioned Rs 80,000 crore for J&K. We are facing problems in utilising these funds but some of our schemes like Udaan and Himayat are doing very well. The government plans to launch more schemes along with skill development to promote horticulture, handicraft. For all this to work, the security scenario needs to improve, the fear among locals needs to be removed. When recruitment of special police officers was announced, a large number of youth turned up despite threats and a boycott call by pro-Pakistan and separatist elements.
Do you think the Centre will have to postpone the Anantnag bypoll from the scheduled May 25 ?
If elections are to be held, we need to ensure the turnout will be good. The government will make arrangements for securing a high turnout. We will study and, if required, request for a postponement.
Is the government concerned over more and more Indian youths joining IS?
Not many youths from India are getting drawn to IS ideology. In Kerala, we came across 21-22 youths who joined IS. It is matter of great pride for our country that the youth are not getting attracted to IS. We have a huge population and those arrested are a small percentage. We are confident that in future too, IS will not be able to influence youths from India.
There have been spate of train accidents where sabotage was suspected. Do you see any pattern or role of Pakistan’s ISI ?
Investigations are going on. To ensure safety of railways, we all need to work together. I had taken a review meeting on rail security with directors general of states and railway police in an effort to sensitise them. The government is also working on technological solutions so that a system can be developed that will generate an alert if there is any sabotage on rail tracks. I don’t think passengers need to be scared. The government is working with a responsibility.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has often accused the ministry of stalling his work by not clearing proposals and bills.
Kejriwal is a glib talker. He will have to stay in Delhi to understand. For four months, he was in Goa and Punjab. He needs to understand his responsibility. The Kejriwal government commits so many mistakes. The LG has recently cancelled their office allotment because they used illegal means. How can I clear such files? There is a process for clearing of files, proposals. It is first to be studied and then a decision taken.