VISITING KASHMIR for the second time in a month, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday reached out to mainstream political parties in an effort to resolve the current crisis. He held separate meetings with different party leaders, who pushed for talks with all stakeholders and a ban on the use of pellet guns.
Earlier in the day, before leaving for the Valley, Singh tweeted: “Shall interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders… I will be staying at the Nehru Guest House. Those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat are welcome.” He also put up a video message on Facebook, appealing for peace and cooperation.
Singh’s visit came on a day when fresh clashes broke out in Pulwama district, in which a youth was killed. Sixty-eight people have died in the ongoing violence, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. Most areas of Kashmir remain under curfew.
“We told him about the broader issues of dialogue and issues that have to be addressed politically,’’ said National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sager, who was part of his party delegation led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Sager said they informed Singh about mass arrests and night raids being conducted by the forces. “We also sought a ban on the use of pellet guns. The home minister said the report on pellet guns would be completed within five to six days.’’
“It is exactly this message that the united opposition parties took to Delhi when we met the President, Prime Minister and other leaders,” PTI quoted Omar as saying. “The situation is getting worse and this is what we told the home minister… This confrontationist attitude, use of force to control the situation is not the solution, and this is what we told the Prime Minister and the home minister,” he said.
The Congress delegation was headed by PCC chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir. Last month, the Congress had boycotted the meeting with Singh. “We asked him to ban the use of pellet guns in Kashmir and also urged him to order a time-bound probe into the killings and excesses committed on people,’’ said Mir, adding that they also sought a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders.
“We sought a ban on the use of pellet guns, restraint on the part of security forces while dealing with people, and unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders especially Hurriyat Conference,’’ said PDP legislator Javeed Beg. He said they also highlighted the death of a college lecturer in Khrew and sought action against the security personnel involved in the killing.
Singh also chaired a high-level security meeting, which was attended by top police, Army, CRPF and state officials. He is expected to meet Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday.
While civil society groups and people linked to the tourism and fruit industry have refused to meet Singh, sources said efforts were being made to arrange meetings with some prominent citizens on Thursday.
Singh’s visit comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a dialogue to “find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem” in Jammu and Kashmir “within the framework of the Constitution”. On Tuesday, Army chief General Dalbir Singh had underlined the “need to synergise efforts with all the other stakeholders”.