Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to discuss the unrest in the Valley, which has been under curfew for 48 days following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
Mufti is understood to have told home minister Rajnath Singh that the Centre needs to announce confidence-building measures to show its earnestness in resolving the crisis. She is likely to raise the issue in her meeting with Modi.
An all-party delegation will visit Kashmir in the first week of September in stepped up efforts by the government to end a wave of violence that claimed the life of another youth in the valley on Friday.
Mufti’s meeting with Modi comes after a clear message from the Centre to the chief minister to control the violence that has killed 69 people so far. This is the first meeting between the two leaders after the unrest began following Wani’s killing on July 8.
Modi expressed “deep concern and pain” on Monday over weeks-long deadly violence in Kashmir, saying there was a need for dialogue and a permanent solution to the region’s troubles.
The prime minister’s remarks came at a meeting with opposition leaders from Kashmir. “Those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation. Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us,” a government statement quoted Modi as saying at the meeting.
On Thursday, Mufti strongly defended action by security forces during a press conference, saying: “People came on streets, 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...”
She said 95% of the people want to resolve the Kashmir issue through political means and dialogue but the other 5% were resorting to agitation.
The decision to send the all-party delegation came a day after the Union home minister ended a two-day visit to Kashmir, announcing the government’s willingness to speak to “anybody” and promising an alternative to pellet guns which have left hundreds of people with eye injuries.
“The exact date of the visit and composition of the delegation will be finalised after consultation with all political parties,” said a senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Both the Centre and the state government are hoping that the situation will improve in view of the approaching Eid-ul-Zuha next month.
The thinking in the government is that the visit of leaders of different political parties might help in soothing the nerves and return of normalcy in the Valley as had happened in 2010.
It was on September 20, 2010 that a 39-member all-party delegation visited Kashmir to assess the situation in the wake of violence that claimed more than 120 lives in three months from June. The delegation gave eight suggestions, including appointing a team of interlocutors.
The interlocutors -- journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former information commissioner MM Ansari – were appointed in October 2010.
They were tasked to begin a process of sustained uninterrupted dialogue with all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially with youths and students and all shades of political opinion.
In their report submitted to the then union home minister P Chidambaram in October 2011, the interlocutors laid down a road map for the government to address all issues pertaining to the state. Among the recommendations included regional councils for all three regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh - to address local aspirations apart from improving governance with a focus on women and children.
The report, also containing suggestions on financial packages in terms of jobs, rehabilitation of families of victims of violence and reducing the number of troops in civilian areas, is yet to be implemented.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Shakeel Ahmad Ganai was killed when security forces fired on a group of protesters in Pulwama district.
The death toll since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani rose to 69 even as the valley remained under for the 49th day.
Pulwama chief medical officer Fayaz Ahmad Shah said more than 20 wounded persons were brought to various hospitals, many of them with pellet injuries.
Ganai, who according to locals was a college student, was hit by bullets in Haal area of the Pulwama district.
Residents said that clashes erupted after people were not allowed to hold a protest prompting the youth to pelt stones on the government forces. The forces retaliated with tear gas shells, pellets and bullets.