Rajnath Singh promises permanent solution without compromising Kashmir identity
The government is working towards a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue without compromising on the identity of the people there, Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday, alluding to fears that the attempts were being made to revoke the special status of the troubled state.
Addressing India TV’s conclave on anti-terrorism, he said the door for talks with the separatist Hurriyat Conference were open though he did not elaborate on the measures being taken to permanently solve the decades-long Kashmir imbroglio.
Singh also said there was no possibility of a dialogue with Pakistan till the neighbouring country stops aiding anti-India terror activities from its soil.
He said the Kashmir problem was too simple to be solved soon and would take a time to find a permanent solution.
“Whatever steps we are now taking in Kashmir is towards a permanent solution to the issue. I will not like to clarify much, and it would not be proper too... I cannot say that I will resolve the problem within few months but the efforts are on.”
In remarks that are likely to bring tempers down in the Kashmir Valley over fears that any attempt at doing away with the special status of the state, Singh said: “Kashmir should maintain its identity.”
The comments assume significance in the backdrop of a raging debate over the continuity of articles 370 and 35(A) of the Constitution that give Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, its special status.
Article 35(A) has been challenged by a Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, in the Supreme Court, where the central government said last month that there was a need for a “larger debate” on the issue of declaring the article unconstitutional.
Added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, the article accords special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and empowers its legislature to frame any law without attracting a legal challenge.
The provision prohibits all Indians — except people from Jammu and Kashmir — from purchasing immovable property in the state, getting government jobs and availing state-sponsored scholarships. The NGO contended that the 1954 order was supposed to be a temporary provision.
The home minister, who met chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in New Delhi on Thursday reiterated that the central government had left its doors open for every individual or group for talks on how to bring peace in the Kashmir Valley and “are still open”.
“My door is always open, we have never closed the path of talks. I never said no to a meeting. Whenever I visited Kashmir, I have an open invitation to all,” Singh said in response to a question over the possibility of talks with separatists in the valley.
He said the situation in the Kashmir Valley was improving and that there has been a decline in stone-pelting incidents. He said to stop youth from taking part in the violent street protests, the government was making efforts to provide employment opportunities to them.
“We are not satisfied with this (decline). Stone-pelting must stop altogether. We have to provide jobs to Kashmiri youths,” Rajnath Singh said.
He said the state PDP-BJP coalition government led by Mufti was cooperating with the Centre in its efforts to bring peace in the state and eliminate militants.
“I can say emphatically that the state government is not obstructing our fight against terrorism. I salute the state police for its efforts to curb terrorism,” he said.
He said the common agenda of governance between the PDP and the BJP is an “experiment which is continuing”.
He said talks with Pakistan have halted for now but the peace process could resume if the neighbouring country assures New Delhi that it will not let its soil used by terrorists to perpetrate attacks against India.
“Pakistan will have to change (its stance), if not today, tomorrow (Aaj nahin sudharega, toh kal sudharna padega),” he said.
Asked why India cannot carry out an Abbottabad-type operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed by US Marines, the home minister replied: “India today is not weak. We are now stronger. It is a question of time as to what to do, then we will see.”
On a possible return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the valley, the home minister said that during late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s tenure, it was agreed that they would be rehabilitated.
“I have been told some land had been earmarked. Instead of setting up separate colonies, a certain percentage from other communities would have settled with them. The Centre had no objections. But conditions changed for the worse, and the implementation is getting delayed. I cannot say that this will happen in a year or six months. It cannot be done in a hurry,” he said.