Mehbooba says Modi ready to talk but no dialogue amid bullets, stones
Kashmir has remained largely paralysed since July 2016 when government forces shot dead a young militant leader, Burhan Wani, touching off months of deadly street protests. The government responded with force, leaving more than 100 people dead.Updated: May 28, 2017, 10:36 IST
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Monday Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “amenable” to talks with all stakeholders to restore peace in the region but that no dialogue was possible in the face of bullets and stones.
Mufti made the comments after meeting Modi in New Delhi on a day violence spiralled in Kashmir. A local leader of Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was shot dead by suspected militants and students clashed with security forces in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk.
At her meeting, Mufti referred to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s more moderate vision for Kashmir, and said Modi too believed in that approach to peace.
“Modiji has repeatedly said he will follow in the footsteps of Vajpayeeji, whose policy was of reconciliation not confrontation,” Mufti told reporters after the meeting.
“There is no option but to talk, but it can’t happen amid stone-throwing, bullets.”
Vajpayee’s government was the first to hold talks with Kashmiri separatists in 2004. Asked if Modi was prepared to talk to the separatists, Mufti said, “We need to pick up from where Vajpayeeji left, otherwise the situation will never improve”.
There was no immediate confirmation of this from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Kashmir has remained largely paralysed since July when government forces shot dead a young militant leader, Burhan Wani, touching off months of deadly street protests. The government responded with force, leaving more than 100 people dead.
Violence spiked again this month after eight people were killed during an assembly by-election in Srinagar. Since then, several video clips purportedly showing alleged human rights abuses by security forces have also added to public anger, often manifested in large throngs of stone-throwing crowds taking small groups of well-armed security forces.
Mufti also met Union home minister Rajnath Singh. After the meeting she said the situation in Kashmir would improve in 2-3 months but did not spell out how.
The PDP became hugely unpopular after forming a governing alliance with the BJP in 2015, and much of Mufti’s rule has been spent trying to douse the violence. The chief minister has pushed the Centre for talks with the separatists in the hope of assuaging popular anger.
“Because of talks, many things had happened. These led to the opening of Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot roads, a ceasefire was announced on (the India-Pakistan) border, talks were held with the Hurriyat,” she said, referring to Vajpayee’s outreach to an umbrella organisation of Kashmiris separatists.
“Modiji has repeatedly said that he will follow Vajpayee’s footsteps. Modiji has always agreed with Vajpayee’s policy of talking to our own people but for that a conducive atmosphere needs to be created.”
She also appeared to draw a distinction between stone-pelters -- some young people who were “disillusioned” and others who were “instigated”, including through the use of social media sites.
Mufti said a meeting of the military’s unified command on Tuesday will discuss how to counter propaganda on social media.
(Additional reporting by Abhishek Saha in Srinagar)