Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Kashmir earlier today for a two-day visit, in a bid to restore normalcy to the Valley. The purpose of the visit is to discuss the situation with various stakeholders within Kashmir. Singh has invited all those who believe in oft repeated rhetoric of ‘Kashmiriyat, insaniyat and jamhooriyat‘ to come for talks.
Singh is being accompanied by home secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi.
Kashmir has witnessed large scale unrest since July 9, following the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander. The uprising has seen more than 68 deaths, with more than 8000 people injured so far.
Singh tweeted saying, “Shall interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders,”
Singh’s visit seems to be the outcome of an interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a delegation of opposition parties led by Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, on Monday. Modi has expressed the need to find a lasting solution to the problems of Kashmir, and has urged all parties involved to work towards the same.
This will be Singh’s second visit to the Valley, in a month.
However, Singh’s visit today has led to heightened security in Kashmir, with curfew reinstated almost all over the Valley, Greater Kashmir reported.
According to NDTV, the home minister quoted former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying, “Those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamooriyat are welcome.”
Singh arrived on a special plane and insisted on not taking a helicopter to the Nehru Guest House, where he will be staying, to judge what the situation on the ground is.
Need to regain trust
A delegation of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee met Singh today evening and apprised him over the turbulence the Valley has witnessed since July, and the disregard shown towards the loss of lives and the thousands injured. The committee also sought an immediate ban on the use of pellet guns and other such weapons to quell protests. They submitted a memorandum to the home minister.
The delegation emphasised the deep sense of alienation among the people because of the blatant killings and numerous injuries that the people of Kashmir have suffered ever since the protests erupted. It urged the home minister to urgently probe the excesses that were committed.
Stressing that harassment, raids and arrests should be stopped immediately, the delegation insisted that a comprehensive and meaningful political dialogue be initiated, involving all stakeholders, as a step to regain confidence from the people of the Valley.
Various trade bodies, such as Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Kashmir Economic Alliance, however, refused to meet the minister. They decided to boycott meeting Singh, despite invitations sent to them by the state government, because they felt that it would be “futile”, given that circumstances have changed little since his last visit. Pellet guns continue to be used and civilian killings recur.
At 2:33 pm today, three hours after Singh’s landing, Greater Kashmir reported that a teenager was killed in Pinglina, a village in south Kashmir.
Amir Gul Mir, an 18-year-old, was killed after the government forces fired pellets and burst tear gas shells. Mir reportedly succumbed to pellet injuries after a clash between protestors and the armed forces in the village, after which Mir was rushed to the SMHS hospital.
Mir adds one more number to the death toll in Kashmir since July.
Earlier this year, he had been treated for injuries that he had sustained after the armed forces had allegedly opened fire on a group of protestors in Kakapora of Pulwama district.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association condemned the killing of Mir, and the thrashing of people in Shopian, Noorbagh, Bandipora, Pulwama and many parts of the valley by the “ruthless forces”. The association also condemned the mob attack on a Kashmiri trucker in Jammu, whose vehicle was set on fire.
The association, in a statement, asked Amnesty International and other human rights organisations to intervene and send teams to Kashmir to evaluate the ground circumstances, holding that the Indian government tried is misleading people by claiming that only a fraction of the Valley demands freedom.
Fifteen people were also injured in a grenade blast in the Pulwama district including three police officers. Four among the injured civilians were taken to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar. One of the injured, a Muhammad Ashraf Mir, is being treated for bullet injuries in his lung.
Following large-scale violence, Muneer-ul-Islam, the district magistrate of Pulwama, has imposed curfew in the district from August 25 onwards.
Several other clashes have reportedly broken out in other areas of Kashmir as well, with dozens sustaining injuries. Eight incidents of stone pelting were also reported.
‘Talks must include Pakistan’
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyat Conference, reportedly said today, that any proposed talks to resolve the situation in Kashmir, must necessarily include Pakistan, given that Pakistan too, is a stakeholder.
Farooq told CNN News 18 that the Kashmir problem, is a “political one” and requires a “political solution” that includes Pakistan.
Farooq further said that Indian politicians frequently blame separatists for any unrest in the Valley.
“It’s always separatists, Pakistan or traitors who are blamed [for problems in the valley] and never the Indian establishment,” he said.
The joint resistance leadership has announced that strikes will extend to September 1, and has issued a protest calendar to this effect.
(With PTI inputs)