The Supreme Court Friday observed that peace will perhaps remain elusive in the Kashmir Valley if issues of “secession” are raised while stones are pelted, and schools and colleges remain shut.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar also remarked that it would be appropriate if “both sides take two steps back” and “address core issues”.
“If you keep throwing stones, and close schools and colleges, how will talks happen? You first talk. But if you are suggesting secession, nothing will happen. Talks have to be within the framework of the Constitution,” remarked the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul.
The bench said that “one cannot clap without both hands” and that it could issue some orders, including suspension of use of pellet guns by the armed forces, if the J&K Bar Association could make sure there would not be any violent protests nor would harm be caused to anyone through stone-pelting.
The court asked the Bar Association to take “one positive step” to defuse the crisis. “The students must return to schools and colleges as education can empower them,” observed the bench.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi ruled out any dialogue between the central government and separatists raising issues of “Azadi” and “accession” in the Valley.
He submitted that the government was firm that it would speak only to legally recognised stakeholders and not those who call elections as state terrorism.
On being asked by the bench as to what could bring peace in the Valley, the AG said that it was not possible to withdraw security forces or tie their hands since national security was at stake in the border state.
“The government would come to the negotiation table only if legally recognised stakeholders participate in the dialogue and not with the separatist elements who rake up the issue of accession or Azadi in Kashmir,” he said.
The law officer was responding to a demand raised by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association to prohibit the use of pellet guns in the Valley.
Rohatgi objected strongly to an argument made by the counsel for the Bar that the government was not holding talks with Hurriyat leaders, who were detained perpetually.
“What is going on? Bar is talking about Geelani and separatists? They have said it ten times while arguing that we should release them. I am making it very clear that the government would absolutely not entertain into any talks of ‘Azadi’ with these leaders,” he said.
Rohatgi also reproached the Bar for terming the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India as “controversial” and elections in the state as “rigged”.
At this, the bench asked the Bar members to play a crucial role and suggest who could talk with stakeholders in the state and the central governments to chalk out the way forward.
“This is (going to create) history. You can play a role and you will be remembered for times to come,” the bench told the counsel for the Bar as it fixed May 9 as the next date of hearing.