NEW DELHI : The approach of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is what’s urgently needed as salve for Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was told today by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during a meeting in Delhi.
“At a time when stone pelting and firing are on, talks are difficult, but the Prime Minister has invoked Vajpayee many times (and) there is a need to start building from what Vajpayee had achieved,” she said after their 40-minute session.
The PDP and the BJP, which are running the coalition government in the troubled state, are not on the same page on the issue of dealing with the growing trend of stone-pelting and this has led to friction between them.A BJP minister Chander Prakash Ganga recently advocated strong action, saying “traitors and stone-pelters should be treated with bullets“.
This comment drew the ire of the PDP, which said there was a “conspiracy” to keep trouble brewing in the Valley.“Such detestable remarks not only reflect the nauseous mentality of some extremist politicians in the state, but also expose the larger design of certain elements to provoke fresh trouble in Kashmir so that Kashmiris are pushed into perpetual educational and economic dis-empowerment,” senior PDP leader Peerzada Mansoor had said in a statement later.
Against the backdrop of the strains, BJP’s pointsman for Jammu and Kashmir Ram Madhav on Friday last held a meeting with senior PDP leader Haseeb Drabu in Jammu. Mr. Madhav then met Mr. Ganga, who later expressed regret for his controversial comment.
A growing anger against the state has seen civilians forming mobs that attack security forces with stones. During a recent election, schools were set on fire and large groups forced their way into voting centres shouting anti-India slogans.
The centre has communicated that stone-pelters, who often comprise of young students including women, will be severely dealt with. In recent days, videos that capture the deepening divide have been circulated on social media. First, there was footage of jawans from the paramilitary CRPF being pushed and taunted by a group in Budgam near Srinagar. The jawans kept their cool and did not react.
Then came a video of a young man tied to an army vehicle allegedly as a human shield, accompanied by audio that warned stone-pelters of action. The BJP and Ms Mufti’s party, the regional PDP, govern Jammu and Kashmir together and their alliance is under increasing pressure over the lengthy cycle of violence.
Ms Mufti has complained to army chief General Bipin Rawat about alleged human rights abuses by his troops, using the “human shield” video as evidence.”Some involved in stone pelting are disillusioned while others are being led astray,” said Ms Mufti about the violent provocation that security personnel encounter every day, an approach that the centre does not empathise with.
Leaders like Ms Mufti and others have urged the centre to begin talks with stakeholders in Kashmir, following Mr Vajpayee’s famous commitment to “Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat” as the framework for dialogue. But Ms Mufti wants the Hurriyat – a group of separatist leaders – to be party to the talks, which the centre has refused so far.
Recent developments including losing the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat to former Chief Minister and political opponent Farooq Abdullah have left Ms Mufti’s party worried about shrinking popularity in areas that were its stronghold. Another recent local election in which the BJP was unable to help Ms Mufti’s candidate win, despite an understanding, has been labelled “back-stabbing” by her leaders.
With reports of her state being put under President’s Rule – which means it would be governed by the centre – Ms Mufti said, “That question needs to be addressed to the central government.”
However, sources in the union government say that is not an option right now. “The PDP-led government is a buffer between the centre and the unrest. Removing it at this point will mean creating a Kashmir vs centre situation in which even the PDP will be forced to take an anti-centre stand,” a BJP leader said, asking not to be named.