Expressing “disappointment and displeasure” at the “insensitivity” of the central and state governments, Jammu and Kashmir opposition leaders, led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, met President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday and asked him to urge the Centre to “initiate a credible and meaningful process of political dialogue” involving “all stakeholders” to resolve the current crisis in the state.
“The failure of the central government to acknowledge that the issue in Kashmir is largely of a political nature has worsened the already volatile situation. The central government’s refusal to deal with the situation through a political approach is disappointing and can have serious long-term implications on peace and stability in the state,” they said in a memorandum submitted to the President.
Terming the recent deaths as a “grave, heart-rending tragedy”, the opposition parties said the “use of lethal force against civilians” should be stopped. “The unchecked use of lethal force against civilians has maimed and blinded hundreds of young boys and girls. The use of such weapons, particularly pellet guns, continues unabated as repeated appeals to ban their use have yielded no results,” said the memorandum.
It warned that “a continued delay to engage with the people of the state through a comprehensive and sustained political initiative will further deepen the sense of alienation in the Valley and cast a shadow of uncertainty on its future generation.”
Sources said that during the hour-long meeting with the President, Omar also referred to Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. D S Hooda’s remarks on Friday hinting at possible talks with separatists. Omar said this response should have come from the state and central governments.
Addressing a press conference, Hooda had said: “We all have to sit down, put our heads together and see if we can find an end to this. I know it is not easy. The situation is difficult. Everybody who is in any way involved in J&K needs to introspect”.
The opposition leaders today expressed “concern” that if the situation is not brought under control, “even those willing to talk now may find it difficult to do so later”.
“I wonder when they will wake up as the situation is grave,” said Omar, alleging that the state and central governments were trying to “crush the agitation by using administrative measures”. He said the PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti had “failed on all fronts”.
“It was the opposition which pressurised the government to hold a debate in Parliament, and it is again the opposition parties which are pushing the state government to find a political solution to the problem,” he said. “The fire that has been raging in Kashmir Valley has already started spreading across Peer Panjal and Chenab Valley in Jammu region and Kargil area,” said Omar.
The delegation has also sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the “urgency” of the matter. They are expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders including CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The delegation included JKPCC chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir, CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, Peoples’ Democratic Front president Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen, Democratic Party Nationalist leader Ghulam Hassan Mir.
Sources said the opposition leaders made it clear that they were not seeking the dismissal of the state government or demanding Governor’s Rule in the state.
“We told the President that political initiative is needed… The President appeared concerned and assured us he would do the needful,” said Congress leader Ravinder Sharma, who was part of the delegation.
“The BJP-PDP had promised to talk to all stakeholders and they should do that now,” said PCC chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir.