Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to heal wounds and win hearts in her state, where month-long public unrest over a militant leader’s death has left more than 50 people dead.
The embattled chief of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which rules the state in alliance with the BJP, invoked former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to push for peace talks with the people of the Kashmir Valley.
“There is a need to take the same initiative of winning the people’s heart, which was taken during Vajpayeeji’s tenure,” she said.
The NDA government headed by Vajpayee had initiated a process of dialogue and engagement with the Kashmiri leadership — separatists and political parties alike.
Mufti, who was in the national capital for a meeting with home minister Rajnath Singh, said the Centre should take “bold and tangible” steps to reach out to the people of Kashmir, and try to reduce the “cynicism and alienation” among the youth.
The Kashmir Valley has been on the edge for the past one month after the killing of popular Hizbul Mujahideen militant leader Burhan Wani. Large tracts of the Valley are under curfew since July 9, while hospitals are struggling to treat thousands of people wounded in the security crackdown.
Mufti rushed to Delhi for talks with central leaders as protests in the Valley showed no signs of abating.
Besides home minister Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, junior minister in the prime minister’s office, Jitendra Singh, national security adviser Ajit Doval, home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, and several senior bureaucrats were present at the meeting.
Kashmir was a talking point in Parliament too, with opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha urging Prime Minister Modi to break his silence on the deteriorating situation.
Opposition leaders urged the Centre to send an all-party delegation to the state, and stop security forces from using pellet guns on protesters. Security forces use pellet guns as a non-lethal weapon in mob control.
But in Kashmir, many people — especially children — have died or were blinded for life by these pellets. Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said no state in independent India has seen 30 days of continuous curfew. “Hindustan ka taj jal raha hai, par uski garmi Delhi tak nahi pahuchti (India’s crown is burning, but the heat hasn’t reached Delhi),” said the Congress leader from the state. The home minister might make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday, according to a government official.
Chief minister Mufti stood by her party’s stated line for a dialogue with the protesters to bring normality to the state. She said Modi should harness the situation to initiate a dialogue and win people’s hearts, the way Vajpayee had done. It is an opportunity to reach out to the people through “tangible confidence-building initiatives” and provide “much-needed healing touch to tide over the trust-deficit”, she added.
Also, she pointed out that her state could become a bridge between India and Pakistan.
“There is a need to apply balm to the wounds of the Kashmiri people … These are our own people. If a dialogue can improve the situation in the Valley, we should do it,” she told reporters. She did not meet Modi and returned to Srinagar in the evening.