The government was taken by surprise by the current phase of violence in Kashmir and there was initial confusion in the response, BJP general secretary and Delhi’s point man in the Valley, Ram Madhav, said on Monday. He, however, blamed Pakistan-backed forces and “agent provocateurs” for the unrest.
The admission by Madhav, who played a key role in sealing the BJP-PDP alliance government in the state, is the first by a senior member of the ruling party on the violence that has left 69 people dead in Kashmir since July.
In an exclusive interview to HT , Madhav said Kashmir could “ask for the Moon within the Indian Constitution” and reiterated the Centre’s willingness to “engage with all sections of the Valley’s society” to defuse the volatile situation.
“There was no such anticipation of any outburst of violence on the streets. In earlier phases, there was some reason – genuine or based on propaganda. This time, the BJP-PDP government had been careful to ensure there was no issue. So initially, there was some kind of confusion about how to tackle this situation,” he said.
He rejected the contention that the protests were sparked by the killing of Burhan Wani , a Hizbul Mujahidden commander shot dead by security forces on July 8.
“Tackling militants has been a day-to-day affair for 20 years. Successive governments have done it. I do not buy this theory (of Wani’s killing sparking the protests).”
The protests have seen stone-pelting mobs target security forces, resulting in retaliatory firing. Hundreds of people have also been left with eye injuries by pellets fired by security forces, fuelling anger among Kashmiris.
Madhav said the pellet gun was actually a substitute for regular bullets, and it saved lives, but even better, less-lethal ways had to be found for crowd control.
To a question on whether the protests indicated political and psychological alienation, Madhav said the slogans of azadi (freedom) needed to be taken with a “pinch of salt”.
“It will be a grave mistake to think all Kashmiris are anti-India.”
Asked if the Modi government made a mistake in not continuing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s outreach to separatist groups such as the Hurriyat, Madhav said the principle remained the same.
“The J&K issue is not just a law and order issue for us. We look at it from the perspective of those three terms used fondly – Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri ethos), insaniyat (humanity), and jamooriyat (democracy).
“Let them ask, let the Indian Parliament decide,” he said to a question on whether autonomy could be a solution to the decades-old Kashmir issue.