Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti made her first public appearance on Wednesday since the latest bout of violence in the Kashmir Valley, and chose a venue no less than the historical Naqshband Shahib shrine to appeal yet again for calm.
The border state’s first woman CM paid tributes at the 17th-century mausoleum’s Martyrs’ Graveyard, and hailed the 22 Kashmiris who died this day 85 years ago during an assault on the Srinagar Central Jail where the Dogra ruler’s army gunned them down amid a people’s uprising for rights.
“They were brave heroes who laid down lives against suppression and autocracy. They put in place the foundations for democracy in our state,” she noted at her visit to the graveyard at the monument located amidst a large garden.
“The biggest tribute to the martyrs would be to uphold democratic values for which they fought. We should maintain peace, and protect what they have achieved for us,” the CM said.
Reaching out to the people, Mehbooba sought their “support in pulling J-K out of the vortex of violence and bloodshed.” Mehbooba said she needs people’s support in realising the dream of a politically-emancipated, economically self-reliant and socially secure Jammu and Kashmir.
Commenting on the current unrest, Mehbooba said, “My heart is overwhelmed with great sadness and sorrow as a result of the killings in the latest spate of violence in Kashmir.”
Asserting that “I won’t let the people down, despite facing a challenging task”, Mehbooba said, “While my government’s immediate priority would be to reach out to the affected families with a healing touch, in the long run a concerted effort shall have to be launched to make peace and stability a reality in J-K, with youth being the focus of the government’s welfare initiatives.”
The 57-year-old PDP leader’s statement comes five days after security forces killed young Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, triggering clashes in several parts of the Valley, killing over 30 people and injuring around 1,400.
July 13 is conventionally observed as Martyr’s Day in Kashmir, though it has for a quarter century become more of an official function held under tight security. In early 1990, terrorism broke out in the Valley.
The 1931 martyrs continue to be a rallying point for political parties.
On Wednesday, National Conference president and former CM Omar Abdullah also paid tributes at the graveyard.
He criticised Mehbooba for her “flawed priorities”, bemoaning that the government was “busy ferrying people to venues in police buses” when protests had been spreading to all places and focus should have been on governance. “By staging such dramas, they want to create a false impression of restoration of normalcy,” he added.
Reiterating the need to end the “cycle of killings”, Omar also appealed to the Centre to send supplies to Kashmir where hospitals were “overloaded”.
The government has “failed to assess the situation” after Wani’s death, he said. “I have spoken to the home minister and expressed concerns about the visuals and videos on social media where forces are seen breaking ambulances and beating up the injured.’’
Omar later reiterated the points in a series of tweets.
“More than 30 people have died & all @MehboobaMufti & her party want to do is put up party flags & get police to ferry people to her function. Brazen shamelessness of the @MehboobaMufti #BJPDP Govt, ferrying people in police buses to state function to convey normalcy has returned,’’ he tweeted.
“Misplaced priorities that put theatrics & falsified public participation over & above the ground realities so as to befool bosses in Delhi,” he wrote subsquently.
Omar also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send doctors to Srinagar as he did for Kerala when the southern state reported a major fireworks tragedy in a temple three months ago.
“Hon @narendramodi ji. After Kerala fire you carried a plane load of burn specialists with you. Please send eye/trauma specialists to Kashmir. The injured include SF persons & young boys who risk losing their sight forever. This is the time to reach out with a healing touch,’’ said the Omar tweet.
Meanwhile, curfew continued on the fifth day across the Valley amid a call by separatists for a shutdown till Wednesday to protest the Wani killing.
Fresh reports of clashes between protesters and security forces have come from Srinagar’s Tengpora area, where a youth was killed three days back. Similar incidents were also being reported from South Kashmir.
Mobile internet and train services continue to be affected. Offices and businesses are closed, crippling life in the Valley.
(With inputs from PTI)