Echoing the stand of partner BJP, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti Thursday blamed civilian deaths in the Valley unrest on protesters attacking Army camps and police posts.
“Did the children go to the Army camp to buy toffees? Did the 15-year-old boy in Damhal Hanjipora go to fetch milk when he attacked a police station,” Mehbooba told a press conference she addressed — and later ended abruptly, upset over some of the questions put to her — with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the end of his two-day visit to Srinagar.
Maintaining that “95 per cent of the population support a peaceful resolution” of the problem in Kashmir, the Chief Minister said security forces will “deal according to law with the 5 per cent people creating havoc”.
She said it was time to “differentiate between people who want resolution of the problem through dialogue, reconciliation and people who exploit small children, the children of the poor, to attack camps and take to the streets with stones”.
“The situation in Kashmir has to be improved. The focus of our government, government of India or all parties in the country should be the 95 per cent of population… they don’t want to pelt stones, they don’t want to indulge in violence, they don’t want to attack the establishment to fulfil any aim,” she said.
Told that her current stand was the opposite of the one she took while in the Opposition during earlier protests, Mehbooba said that unlike earlier protests, the current one had no meaning since it wasn’t triggered by any rights violation by security forces.
“What happened in 2010 had a reason. There was a fake encounter in Machil where three civilians were killed. Then there were allegations of rape and murder in Shopian (in 2009), boys were killed while playing cricket. There was a reason for the people’s anger. This time, an encounter happened, as has been happening, in which three militants were killed. What is the government’s fault in that? People came out on the streets. We imposed curfew.”
Reiterating it was wrong to compare the current situation with the protests that took place under the watch of her predecessor Omar Abdullah, she said: “Today, 95 per cent of the boys who have been killed are from poor families. They were killed and wounded in retaliation when they attacked police stations and Army camps… On the lecturer who was killed (beaten to death at Khrew), I am in favour of an inquiry into that killing… But the government at that time (in 2010) said it was against India, it was anti-national.”
When she was asked if her party, the PDP, was sidelining the political issue of Kashmir at a time when calls for azadi were being made, she said: “We are not sidelining any political issue. I have brought these people out… when they would run away at the sight of a Task Force Gypsy, when they were taken away for forced labour. I have brought out the children of south Kashmir from that (situation)…”
“Today, some people have pushed these children into the furnace for illegitimate aims. I am with the Kashmir issue. There should be dialogue and it should be resolved. But this way, by throwing stones and attacking camps, the issue cannot be resolved,” she said.
She later left the press conference in a huff though Rajnath Singh tried to pacify her.
Earlier, the Union Home Minister said an alternative to pellet guns would be found within a few days. He said the government was awaiting a report from a committee of experts — the use of pellet guns during the current unrest in the Valley has led to hundreds of injuries among protesters, prompting calls for a ban.
Singh said there were plans to send an all-party delegation to engage people in the Valley. “I have told Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti… every preparation should be made so that the all-party delegation can hold talks with the people.”
Calling for calm after weeks of violent protests following the July 8 killing of militant Burhan Wani, Singh said: “Whenever any youth of Kashmir or a jawan of the security forces gets killed, it pains us all. This pain is felt by not just people living in Kashmir but every citizen of this country. Can’t we get Kashmir out of this situation?… I appeal to everyone… don’t play with the future of young men of the Valley. We associate the future of children of Kashmir with the future of children of entire India.”
“Those responsible for creating such a situation should be identified. Some of our children have been misled and have picked up stones. These children need to be counselled… children are children. We can never separate the future of Kashmir from the future of the country. If there is no future for Kashmir, then there is no future for India.”
When he was asked whether the government would talk to separatist leaders — they continued to be under house arrest Thursday — Singh said: “When I came to Kashmir yesterday, I tweeted that I had come to the Valley to talk within the ambit of Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat. Whosoever is willing, I will welcome.”
He said “three-fourth of the people” he met during his visit were “new faces”.
“I met more than 20 delegations and I think almost all political parties sent their delegations. Talks with all political delegations were held in a good atmosphere. All want peace and stability in the Valley… I have met people with a different thinking.”
To another query, Singh said: “Don’t suspect our understanding, don’t try to question our understanding, our understanding is correct. We understand very well how to resolve this problem. We are trying our best to resolve the issue.”
He said the Centre wants development of Kashmir. “A few days ago, we took a decision that recruitment for one battalion of Central Armed Police Force should happen here. Recently, Chief Minister took a decision that ten thousand SPOs (special police officers) will be recruited. No state would have taken such a decision in such a short span of time,” he said.
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