With just two days left for the visit by an all-party delegation, as part of the Centre’s efforts to bring peace to Kashmir, the J&K government re-imposed curfew in all major towns of the Valley on Friday after protests were reported from more than 50 places in which over 50 people were injured.
The curfew, which was lifted from most parts of the Valley on Monday after a spell of 51 days, was re-imposed with J&K police reporting 35 incidents of stone-pelting from across Kashmir, a day after a vocational centre was set ablaze in Sopore.
Key members of the all-party delegation, meanwhile, appeared anxious but cautiously optimistic about the visit. With the situation turning volatile again, the members said it is time to convey to the people of Kashmir that Parliament is with them.
The Congress will be represented by a team comprising Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni and Mallikarjun Kharge. “People expect the delegation to come up with something that will bring them out of this situation… To be constantly under curfew is not a solution…
Economic activity is at a standstill, children are not able to go to school… One cannot be an onlooker,” Soni told The Indian Express.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the “government should unilaterally announce certain confidence building measures” like withdrawal of AFSPA from all civilian areas.
“The delegation should listen to all stakeholders… There is a trust deficit, we have to address that. From the side of the Indian Parliament, we must be very clear that we would want to speak to all stakeholders and end this sort of senseless killing of innocents. This is exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also said,” he said. “There was complete hopelessness when we went there in 2010. But we restored normalcy.”
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, also part of the delegation, said of the fresh unrest: “We will also meet on Saturday morning. I am sure all factors will be taken into account and will be discussed in the meeting.”
On talks with Hurriyat leaders, he said, “We are going with an open mind. After all, the purpose of the visit is to hold talks.”
NCP’s Tariq Anwar said there was a “delay” in sending the all-party delegation, but insisted that “even when the situation is very bad, there should not be an end to dialogue”.
“The condition has become very delicate. The initiative should have been taken much earlier,” Anwar said.
Dushyant Chautala of the INLD said, “It is very early to say who we will meet… but there have to be some talks… A solution always comes through discussion.”
CPI’s D Raja said the leaders will decide the strategy after the government’s briefing. “We will come to know of the governments’ assessment and plans…. If the situation is volatile, does that mean we should keep off? We have to reach out to the people of J&K and convey the concern and goodwill of the rest of India,” he said. “The government should stop use of pellet guns, lift AFSPA, scale down presence of armed forces in civilian areas, and declare its position that it will engage with all stakeholders unconditionally.”
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav said his effort will be to achieve a “consensus” to resolve the Kashmir issue. The delegation, led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, will meet the Governor, Chief Minister and representatives of all political parties, apart from a cross-section of individuals and organisations on Sunday.
The latest flashpoint for unrest in Srinagar was the drowning of a 12-year-old boy in the Jhelum on Thursday, with protesters claiming that the death occurred as he was being chased, along with two others, by security forces in the old city area.
Police, however, denied the allegations and said that forces were not present in the area at the time of the incident.
The body of the boy, identified as Danish Sultan, a Class VI student of Palpora locality, was recovered from the river on Friday. It was laid to rest in the afternoon at a funeral attended by hundreds of people raising pro-freedom slogans. Sultan is the youngest casualty in the latest violence in the Valley triggered by the killing of militant Burhan Wani on July 8.
“The three boys, who were walking on the bridge, jumped into the river after seeing security forces approach them. Sultan couldn’t swim and drowned,’’ said Abdul Rashid, a local. “There was no stone-pelting going on there at the time,” he said.
A police officer in Parimpora, however, denied that there was any security deployment in the area when the boy had drowned. “We came to know about this incident from local residents,’’ said the officer.
Meanwhile, 17 people were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces in Bandipore. One of the injured was hit by pellets in the eye and shifted to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital.
In neighbouring Hajin, protesters attacked the Army’s Goodwill School and damaged its window panes. Around 16 people were injured in clashes in Beerwah and four during clashes in Shopian district.
At Nadihal village in north Kashmir, 35 political workers affiliated with different parties staged a protest rally and claimed that they had resigned from mainstream politics.
Following the latest spurt in violence, a police spokesman said that curfew was imposed in Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Baramulla.
The spokesman also said that a group of unidentified people set ablaze a vocational training centre at Watergam in Sopore’s Dangiwacha on Thursday evening, damaging the building completely.