Rajnath Singh and Mehbooba Mufti met on Thursday in Srinagar to discuss security issues in Kashmir, following which they held a joint press conference.
Singh said that he spoke to delegations from almost every political party and had seen nearly 300 people since the previous day.
The overwhelming demand from the “stakeholders”, including a delegation of the opposition National Conference led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, was an immediate ban on the use of pellet guns as a crowd controlling weapon.
In the press conference, Singh announced that an alternative to pellet guns will be put to use soon. Pellet guns have come under sharp criticism for blinding hundreds of people.
Singh urged the people of Kashmir to cooperate and said that there is no future for India without Kashmir. Once again, he reiterated former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s slogan of “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat” and said that the government was willing to engage in dialogue.
Singh said that he had set up an expert committee to look for an alternative for pellet guns. The committee is expected to submit a report within two or three days.
He appealed to the people of Kashmir to not play with the future of its youth, and stressed the need to identify those “fanning trouble”.
“Children are children. If they pick up stones, they must be counselled,” Singh said
Singh announced that a nodal officer would be appointed to look into issues faced by the Kashmiri youth, and that a helpline would be set up.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that 95% of the people in Kashmir wanted a peaceful resolution and that only 5% were taking to agitation. Moreover, she said that it was the children and the poor who suffered the most as a consequence of this violence, claiming that she has tried to do much for the children of Kashmir. She insisted that the protesters used children as shields and misled them.
“I am for resolution of the Kashmir issue. There should be dialogue. But by resorting to stone-pelting and attacking the camps, no issue will be resolved. We are not sidelining the issue. We want resolution,” she said.
She said, “People have come onto the roads. We imposed curfew. Did the children go to army camps to buy toffees (candy)? Was the 15-year-old boy, who attacked the police station at Damhal Hanjipora (in south Kashmir), going there to get milk?”
At the same time, she said she supported action against those security personnel who were involved in the killing of a lecturer in the Khrew area of Pulwama district earlier this month. “There is the case of [the] lecturer. An inquiry should be held and punishment should be given the culprits. I support it,” Mehbooba said.
However, Mufti lost her cool and abruptly ended the press conference. She suddenly got up, saying “thank you”, after replying to a question even as Singh was seated. He also then got up reluctantly and the press interaction at her residence ended.
After the meeting, state Congress party president, G.A. Mir spoke to the press saying, “It is unfortunate that the home minister had nothing to offer to ease out the tension in Kashmir. He had nothing new to offer to the people of Kashmir and even brushed aside what the opposition parties had told the prime minister during a meeting in New Delhi,”.
(with PTI inputs)