At the end of his two-day visit to Jammu & Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said he met more than 300 people from all walks of life to assess the sense among the people of the Valley that has witnessed unrest for the last 47 days. Singh said the Union government was open to dialogue, that an all-party delegation would visit the Valley soon and an alternative to pellet guns, which have left scores with eye injuries, is being looked at.
Singh, with a combative Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti by his side, also addressed a press conference at her residence on Thursday afternoon. While the home minister was seen trying to calm her, Mufti lost her cool while answering questions posed by journalists on her role in resolving unrest in the Valley. She abruptly ended the press conference and forced the home minister to get up as well.
Mufti criticised the stone-pelting and violence. She said casualties were bound to take place when mobs attack camps of security forces, police pickets and police stations. She said 95 per cent of the people wanted peaceful resolution to the problem, five per cent had “hijacked” the issue by indulging in violence.
“95 per cent of those killed - mostly youth - have died in retaliatory action, while they were attacking security establishments,” the chief minister said. At the same time, she said she supported action against those security personnel who were involved in the killing of a lecturer in Khrew area of Pulwama district earlier this month.
As journalists kept asking questions about her role in dealing with the situation, Singh tried to mediate by telling scribes: “Mehboobaji is from among you”. However, Mufti was combative, saying, “What will they tell me? I have saved the youth of south Kashmir from the task force (special operations group of police). I have saved them from the knives when they were taken for bonded labour.”
Declaring there is no future for India without Kashmir, Singh again invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee's policy of 'Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat' (Kashmir's pluralist ethos, humanity and democracy) to say the National Democratic Alliance government was ready for dialogue with anyone. Singh said an expert committee set up by the home minister and mandated to look for an alternative to pellet guns is expected to give its report in two-three days.
Replying to a question on the central government's understanding of the prevailing situation in Kashmir, the home minister said, “Do not question our understanding of the situation. We are trying to find a solution”. He said the central government will soon appoint a nodal officer to help Kashmiris in distress living in other parts of the country. Singh said more than 20 delegations and around 300 people met him during the two-day visit and all of them conveyed to him they want peace in the Valley.