July 22, 2016 1:17:10 am
Amid strong criticism of the use of pellet guns in Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday announced that the government would form an expert panel to look at other non-lethal alternatives. Singh also blamed Pakistan for the recent unrest and violence in Kashmir, saying the country had played a “key role in fomenting trouble”.
“It is not like pellet guns were not used in Kashmir in the past; they were, in fact, used in 2010 as well, and they are listed as non-lethal weapons. We will, however, form a committee of experts, which will tell us in two months the non-lethal alternatives to these guns,” Rajnath Singh said, replying to a discussion on Kashmir. Singh told the House that while one person died and 53 suffered injuries from pellet guns in the recent violence, in 2010, these guns had killed six people and caused eye injuries to 98, with five suffering complete blindness.
Referring to the ‘black day’ Pakistan observed after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Singh said the country had no right to interfere in India’s internal matters. “Pakistan wants to destabilise India. This is because it wants to divert attention from the fact that it has failed to check constant sectarian violence in its territory,” he said in his 40-minute reply. “If there is terrorism in India, then it is Pakistan sponsored,” Singh said.
“The youths of Kashmir are also patriots. There is an attempt to misguide some… There is a mindset that stokes baseless anger against India,” Singh said, adding that the same “distorted mindset” can be seen in parts of Chhattisgarh, a reference to the Maoist issue.
Singh informed the House that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had instructed the forces to maintain “maximum restraint” while dealing with civilian protests.
“In fact, he (Modi) was pained at the developments in Kashmir. After he returned from abroad, the very first meeting he held was on Kashmir. He had been keeping a tab on the situation from abroad as well,” he said.
Singh said he had spoken to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who said she would come to Delhi in the next 2-3 days to hold discussions. “I told her that I myself would like to go there, stay in a guest house and meet people there,” he said.
With several opposition members citing the ongoing unrest and recent terror attacks to express concern that terrorism was on the rise in the Valley, the Home Minister said 152 terror incidents had taken place so far this year, as against 208 in 2015 and 220 in 2012. He also said 86 militants had been killed so far this year compared to 108 in 2015 and 72 in 2012. Singh said five civilians had died in terror incidents so far this year, prior to the ongoing unrest, as against 17 in 2015, 28 in 2014 and 15 in 2012.
The minister said that during the current protests, 38 civilians had been killed, 2,180 injured and 2,055 people discharged from hospitals. A security personnel is among those who died and 1,739 of them suffered injuries.
Striking a conciliatory note, he said all governments in the past have made efforts to improve conditions in Kashmir.
He also described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing sparked the recent protests, as a “tech-savvy terrorist of the new generation” who had exploited social media platforms to lure youths into picking up the gun.
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