AS Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday urged separatists to respond to the ceasefire for Ramzan and the offer of talks by the government, saying “such an opportunity does not come every day”, sources in New Delhi indicated that the Centre was planning further measures to “reintegrate misguided youths” in the Valley.
Officials in the Union Home Ministry said they were working on a draft policy, focused around sports, tourism and employment, for Kashmir youths. The policy would be taken up for discussion when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh meets CM Mufti during his visit to the state on June 7-8, they added.
The move, officials said, was to counter rising terror recruitment in the Valley. In 2017, 126 local youths joined militancy, a sharp increase from 88 in 2016. The number has crossed 80 already mid-way through 2018, including a Kashmir University assistant professor, who was killed within days of going missing, a 20-year-old engineering graduate and a J&K Police personnel.
An official familiar with the proposal, dubbed “reintegration of misguided youths”, acknowledged that killing of local militants by security forces was only inciting more to pick up arms.
Elaborating on the timing of the plan, the official added, “There has been a decline in the number of stonepelting incidents during the Ramzan ceasefire and the Centre wants to reap the good conditions prevailing in most part of the Valley, barring South Kashmir.”
However, the official clarified, “While the Home Ministry will provide the amenities, it will be the state government that would be required to bring changes on the ground.”
Addressing a convention of workers of her party PDP in Srinagar on Sunday — a rare political meeting in the Valley in the past three years — Mufti made an appeal to separatists to respond to the Centre’s gestures. “There are (political) parties which are not in the mainstream. If they want that bloodshed should stop, they have an opportunity. I request them to come forward and talk. We can’t force them, we can’t dictate to them, we can only request them,” Mufti said. “…Today you have an offer of dialogue. They (the Centre) are saying come and talk to us. I think if J&K has to emerge from this difficult time, then all of us — be it the mainstream parties or separatists — have to come forward and use this opportunity. Such an opportunity does not come every day.”
With two more BSF personnel killed on Sunday in border firing, nearly a week after the DGMOs of India and Pakistan agreed to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit”, the CM also asked the two director generals of military operations to talk again, and put “an end to the bloodshed in the state”.
Referring to the death of a youth who came under the wheels of a CRPF vehicle during protests on Friday, the CM said, “He was an orphan but why take to stonepelting? Why not give them (the youth) a way out of this morass?”
Putting the onus on separatists, Mufti said, “We, mainstream parties, gave you unilateral ceasefire and an atmosphere for talks, now it is up to you… The Home Minister of this country is saying they want to embrace Kashmiris and are ready for talks. If we lose this opportunity, nobody will support us tomorrow. We always say that there has to be a political solution to Jammu and Kashmir. The Army or CRPF or police cannot resolve it… There is an offer of dialogue, I request all stakeholders to come forward to save Jammu and Kashmir and its economy.”
Referring to the spate of grenade attacks over the last few days, she said picking up of guns by young boys was not going to solve anything. “Nothing can be achieved by guns, by stones. The more the people of Kashmir pick up guns, the presence of the Army, CRPF and police will increase. The more the situation improves, the more we can tell the Army, CRPF or police that your role is over and you step back… Despite the unilateral ceasefire, there are grenade attacks. They do not see that civilians are getting killed, they do not see that Army or CRPF jawans have come from far-flung areas for their bread and butter… There have been thousands of grenade attacks, thousands have picked up guns, but what has been achieved? We have achieved the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, Poonch-Rawalkote road, and if the situation improves, I promise you that we will re-open more such routes.”
The new policy initiative by the Centre comes in the wake of several measures taken by the Union Home Ministry to reach out to youths in Kashmir, officials stressed. Quoting numbers, a senior officer said that 1,079 youths had been selected during a special recruitment drive for central armed police forces and Assam Rifles in 2016-17 while 7,302 had been inducted into the Army in 2014-2017. The Centre had also cleared a proposal to raise two new border battalions for the J&K Police, while five India Reserve Battalions had recruited 4,690 youths.