THE Government came under sharp attack from Opposition parties over its handling of Kashmir at an all-party meeting here, which asked it to talk to all stakeholders to bring an end to the unrest in the Valley.
“I have kept doors, windows and ventilation — all of them open,” is how Home Minister Rajnath Singh responded to Opposition demands from the government to reach out to people in Kashmir and utilise the window provided through the all-round condemnation of the Amarnath terror attack. Singh’s remarks came at an all-party meeting here to discuss the India-China situation as well as the terror attack on Amarnath yatra, which saw a number of Opposition leaders raising questions on the government’s preparedness for the yatra.
Opposition members also raised issues like the atmosphere being created in the country because of what they called the BJP’s communal agenda, the incidents of lynching, attacks on Dalits and attacks on minorities. They said that all these issues will definitely be debated in Parliament. Many Opposition leaders said that divisions are being created in society through such violence and lynchings in the name of gauraksha. After Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba made a detailed presentation on the Amaranth terror attack which left seven pilgrims dead, the Opposition members had some tough talk for him. They asked the government to explain the state of its preparedness for the Yatra and how and why the fateful bus was on road for hours without any checks.
Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Sharad Yadav (JDU) are learnt to have raised questions over the government’s handling of Kashmir saying there is a casualty, almost daily, from either the civilian or the military side and the government just keeps talking of using force to handle the situation. Yadav is learnt to have said that the government’s way of handling things so far has not improved the atmosphere. Azad said that if every body is fired upon, this will only end up increasing the sense of alienation. Yechury wondered why “nobody has claimed credit for the attack”, which is “very very suspicious” and asked why there was no intelligence input.
“Usually terror groups in the state claim attacks immediately, we expressed puzzlement at why that was not the case this time. There were no answers from the government,” Yechury said. He blamed the “faulty approach of the government” that had led to a worsening of the Kashmir situation. The CPI-M leader said since that all sections in the Valley, including the separatist Hurriyat, had condemned the Amarnath terror attack, the Government should utilize this positive atmosphere to break the ice and talk to all stakeholders to bring an end to the unrest there. He said that while he is aware that Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been taking steps, behind the scenes, to continue communication, “the time has now come to open the doors for talks with all”.
Responding, the Home Minister said, “I have kept doors, windows and ventilation — all open”. Yechury also recalled that when the all-party delegation had visited the Kashmir Valley in September last year, they had met all stakeholders. At this, Anandrao Adsul from Shiv Sena reminded them how Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had closed the doors on them when they had gone to meet him. “Why did you go there when they refused to meet you,” he asked.
Shiv Sena was the only party present in the meeting that named Pakistan in connection with the Amarnath attack. It said that India must give a strong reply and launch a crackdown against terror attacks emanating from Pakistan. Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party too were in favour of strong action. After the meeting, Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien said: “I asked if the government was aware about the security problem, why didn’t they take it seriously? Why the lapse, the failure? Why didn’t Govt act? I did not get any answers.”
The Congress asked three questions: why the journey of 90 minutes took four hours, why the bus that had been attacked was not registered and why it was travelling at night. Azad asked what had changed in 2017 that Amarnath Yatra which had largely been free of such incidents since 2000 has been targeted. The AIADMK praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his handling of Jammu and Kashmir, listed his engagements in that state since he assumed office and praised his policies.