Opposition leaders from Jammu and Kashmir are upbeat after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- they feel they have seized the initiative from chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in resolving the volatile situation in the Valley.
The Prime Minister’s concern over the turmoil, his call for peace and emphasis on dialogue are some things they can take back to the people in Kashmir, where seven weeks of violence has left 67 people dead and thousands injured.
“What Mehbooba Mufti could not do for the past 45 days, the opposition leaders have managed to do (in a meeting). For the first time, there was an empathetic and encouraging language from the PM,” said Prof Noor Ahmad Baba of Kashmir University.
Mufti was in Delhi for a day on August 8 and met home minister Rajnath Singh for almost two hours. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and national security adviser Ajit Doval were among those present in the meeting.
But Mufti, who is ruling the border state in alliance with the Modi’s BJP, didn’t meet the Prime Minister, and it was noticed. “It is surprising that when the Valley is burning and the CM is in Delhi, there is no meeting between the two,” said Congress leader GN Monga, who was part of the eight-member opposition delegation that met Modi on August 22.
“She should have met the PM and personally apprised him of the prevailing volatile situation in Kashmir,” he said.
The Prime Minister, sources said, had promptly accepted a request for a meeting from the delegation led by National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
The request was sent Sunday morning and within hours, the leaders, who were camping in Delhi, were told that the PM would meet them at 5pm the same evening. The meeting, however, was pushed to 9.30am the next day because of PM’s busy schedule, sources said.
Political analysts are of the view that the PM’s conciliatory statement after a prolonged “silence” on Kashmir, which echoed loud after his strong words on Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is significant and could be the icebreaker the Valley needs.
“These leaders are also stakeholders. We were in stalemate and nothing seemed to be moving. They have succeeded in breaking some ice,” Baba said.
In his meeting with the opposition leaders Modi said there was a need for dialogue and a permanent solution to the region’s troubles. “Those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are a part of us, our nation. Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us,” a government statement had quoted Modi as saying.
Mufti, on the other hand, is accused of failing to grasp the gravity of the situation. Her statement on Monday that only 5% people were creating unrest in Kashmir and the remaining 95% wanted to live in peace, too, has not gone down well.
“She has admitted her failure in controlling those 5%. It’s a reflection on her government. This 5% cannot be isolated. Every family in Kashmir is involved in one way or the other. The anger clearly has social backing,” Baba said.
Monga agreed. “She seems to be clueless over how to handle this simmering anger. First three-four days after the killing of Burhan Wani were crucial and her statements have further strengthened the public perception that she has failed administratively,” he said.
But, there is also a word of caution too. “We have to wait and watch how things unfold. Though it will not immediately resolve the issue, much depends on how Modi’s statement is made operational and when talks are initiated with all stakeholders,” Baba said.
The Centre’s credibility was at stake, Monga said. Sending home minister Rajnath Singh again to Kashmir was a half-hearted attempt. The PM should have visited the Valley, the Congress leader said.