Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think Kashmir is reverting to the days of militancy in the 1990s?
I think you base your perceptions on the handful of police stations in downtown Srinagar. The situation is far removed from the 1990s. It is not even like 2008. What we are going through is a fallout of the 2008 Amarnath agitation when protests, demonstrations and stone-pelting were put into practice. But today’s situation is confined to areas under five police stations in Srinagar. Barring those who are ideologically opposed to our party and family, I don’t think anybody will tell you we are sliding back (to the ’90s).
You say your government won’t tolerate human rights violations. Yet three boys were killed in one month…
A BSF trooper was arrested within four days of Zahid Farooq’s killing. Even Human Rights Watch described it as a first in 20 years. I don’t think any government took such incidents so seriously in the past. The stone-pelters are not innocents. Security forces have been remarkably rest-rained. Whenever they exceed limits, they will be disciplined.
What action has been taken for killings of the other two teens?
The government takes part of the responsibility. We have taped records of conversati-ons in which separatists were instigating gang leaders of the stone-pelters, tracked movement of money for these leaders and monitored conversations from across the Line of Control in which the status report of the day’s stone-pelting is sought. They also bear their share of responsibility. It’s not just a law and order problem. It’s much bigger.
Why were you in Jammu when Srinagar was burning?
I was in Srinagar while all this was happening. I was very much part of dealing with the problem. Jammu is the state’s winter capital and I was within my rights to be in Jammu. But the fact of the matter is that I was in Srinagar.
Is slamming the Public Safety Act on stone-pelters justified?
The other laws are so weak that stone-pelters get bail the day after their arrest, and are back on the streets. It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the general public.
There is a view in Delhi that you are not in control of the situation in Kashmir and the security forces follow their own agenda…
Not at all. There is a clearly defined chain of command. I head the unified command and two corps commanders (of 15 Corps and 16 Corps, based in Srinagar and Nagrota) are my security advisors. There is absolutely no confusion in terms of command and control structures.
You had promised to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But this has not happened…
It cannot be revoked at this stage when there is a significant increase in attempted infiltrations from across the LoC and border — and under covering fire (by Pak troops).
There is hardly any visible impact of the efforts of your government even after a year…
We have done a very good job under extremely difficult circumstances as last year we hardly had any time to work.