In Kashmir for a fresh outreach amid clashes for over a month, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today indicated the government’s willingness to talk to separatists and also said an alternative to pellet guns – which have caused massive injuries among protesters – is on the way.
Asked whether the government would talk to the separatist Hurriyat leaders, Mr Singh said: “We are willing to talk to anyone within the scope of Kashmiriyat, Jamooriyat and Insaniyat.”
He also said that an all-party delegation would visit Kashmir, where 69 people have been killed and 10,000 injured in clashes after the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani.
An officer will be appointed to tackle problems of Kashmiris outside the state, the home minister added.
Mr Singh’s press meet ended abruptly as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti got up while answering a question, apparently losing her cool when a journalist said she had swapped roles and views with her predecessor Omar Abdullah on the protests.
Ms Mufti confronted tough questions on what many allege is disproportionate use of force by security forces on protesters. A journalist reminded that as opposition leader, she had criticised the Omar Abdullah government in 2010 for civilian killings.
“Don’t mix or compare the two situations. In 2010 there was a fake encounter. Today three militants were killed, how is the government to be blamed?” she said, adding that people came out on the roads to protest despite curfew.
“Had a kid gone to buy a toffee from an army camp? A 15-year-old boy who attacked a police station (in south Kashmir), had he gone to buy milk? Don’t compare the two,” said Ms Mufti, adding emphatically, “Stone-throwing and protesting is not a solution.”
While Mr Singh was still seated, she stood up and gestured an end to the press meet.
The home minister is on a two-day visit to Kashmir to review security and interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders as part of the outreach recently promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A man died and around 40 were injured in fresh clashes between protesters and security forces in Pulwama district on Wednesday.
The government accuses separatists of instigating the mobs that have attacked police stations and paramilitary camps and burnt vehicles belonging to security forces.