Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and pressed for a dialogue with separatists in the state, where unrest is growing and the ruling coalition is under strain.
Mufti, who is under pressure in the face of fresh street protests in Kashmir, briefed Modi on the prevailing situation and the way forward.
“There is no option but to talk, but it can’t happen amid stone-throwing, bullets,” said the chief minister whose Peoples Democratic Party is running the government in the border state with Modi’s BJP.
Even as Mufti discussed the way forward with PM Modi, clashes broke out in the Valley where schools and colleges reopened after remaining suspended for five days in the wake of student demonstrations against the alleged high-handedness of security forces.
Students of SP College assembled on Srinagar’s Maulana Azad Road and started pelting stones on security forces causing blockade of one of the busiest roads in the city.
After the meeting, Mufti, referring to former PM AB Vajpayee’s Kashmir peace push, told mediapersons: “Modi ji has repeatedly said he would follow Vajpayee ji’s footsteps, whose policy is of reconciliation not confrontation.”
She also sought to remind the coalition partner that the BJP-led government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee held talks with the Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organisation of separatist outfits.
“… LK Advani deputy PM the Hurriyat ke saath baat hui hai, doosron se baat hui hai (When LK Advani was the deputy PM, talks were held with the Hurriyat and others)” she said.
Violence increased in the state in the run-up to the election to Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9. Eight people were killed on the voting day, with only seven per cent of the electorate casting their vote.
The allies are not on the same page on the issue of stone-pelting mobs targeting security forces and crowding encounter sites.
The chief minister on Monday seemed to draw a distinction between stone-pelters. She said there were some young people who were “disillusioned” while some were being “instigated”, including through the use of social media sites.
A BJP minister Chander Prakash Ganga recently advocated strong action, saying “traitors and stone-pelters should be treated with bullets”.
The remark upset the PDP, which said there was a “conspiracy” to keep trouble brewing in the Valley.
Opposition National Conference is demanding imposition governor’s rule, alleging the state government has failed to ensure peace in the state. Party’s working president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah has also questioned the handling of student protests.
More than 400 incidents of stone-pelting have been reported in Kashmir from October, 2016 to March, 2017.
Mufti also raised with Modi the Indus waters treaty saying it was causing a huge loss to the state. The agreement with Pakistan requires the two neighbours to share waters of Indus, Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum rivers.