Forces have resorted to disproportionate use of force: Salman Khurshid in Kashmir

Amibika Soni calls for APM, blames PDP-BJP alliance for Valley crisis

India’s former External Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Sunday termed the killing of 41 civilians in Kashmir as unfortunate, saying the forces in the Valley are “under tremendous pressure, but can’t kill at a will.”

Khurshid arrived in Srinagar this afternoon along with Congress General Secretary Ambika Soni to take stock of the situation in the wake of widespread protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Buhan Wani on July 8.

Addressing a joint press conference here, Khurshid said after meeting the Congress-cadre from across Kashmir, “I understood that the forces have resorted to disproportionate and excessive use of force while dealing with the protestors. We also do understand that forces are under pressure but they can’t kill at will.”

He said the forces are being trained vigorously for “safeguarding the rules” while dealing with tough situations. “(But) Here, all such rules seem to have disappeared,” he said.

Asked that his colleague and former Home Minister P Chidambram had once said ‘Kashmir is a unique problem, which needs a unique solution’, and whether Congress has the same opinion at this juncture, Khurshid said:  “I advocate dialogue with all shades of opinion for bringing peace to J&K. We had started a process by sending interlocutors. We had slowly brought closer people from all walks, but couldn’t move forward due to time constraints.” He said the government in place at the Centre “never talks to anyone.”

“They don’t like taking suggestions from others and rather wait for the rabbit to come out of the hat,” he said.

Chipping in, Soni, who is also Kashmir Affairs’ Incharge, said the UPA-government headed by Sonia Gandhi had a clear vision vis-à-vis engaging people of all walks of life for finding solutions to the problems in Kashmir. “Perhaps, that engagement would have led to a solution after three or four years. We also rolled out employment-centric schemes besides announcing a series of developmental packages,” said Soni, who was flanked by Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir. 

She said all the good word done by the UPA government has been “undone by the present regime and things have gone back to zero.” “We managed to reach Srinagar in the night, after changing vehicles.”

Soni blamed the PDP-BJP regime for the present situation in Kashmir. “We heard about 100 people, while some say 160, including women have been hit in their eyes during the ongoing violence. I believe the present situation has its roots in the PDP-BJP government,” she said. “The two parties fought elections despite having opposite ideologies and yet formed the government. They backstabbed the people and there was anger on the ground zero against this alliance from day one.”

She said the first step by the government should have been to airlift people with grave injuries to outside J&K for treatment. “They should have been airlifted and admitted to various hospitals in Chandigargh, Amritsar and New Delhi,” she said.

She said that when Congress was in power in J&K, New Delhi would always remain at the “beck and call” of the State government.  “We have not heard Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti speaking about the present situation. Prime Minister Narendera Modi has issued only one statement about Kashmir. When we were in power, they (PDP) were demanding our resignation, but we won’t do the same,” she said.

For restoring normalcy in Kashmir, Soni called for an All Party Meeting. “The APM should have been convened on day one, but it is better late than never. There must be steps and strategy for restoring peace in Kashmir,” she said.

On the press gag, the former Union Minister said: “Such steps don’t suit democracy. If there was some newspaper going against people’s interest, there should have been action against that very particular paper. But brushing all newspapers with the same brush, doesn’t suit democracy.”

Asked whether AFSPA was allowing the forces in Kashmir to be “trigger-happy”, the former Union Minister said: “Even my colleague, Chidambaram had agreed that usefulness of some clauses in the AFSPA was outdated.”