Home Minister meets mainstream politicians in Srinagar

2-DAY VISIT | Omar, GA Mir, Tarigami, others seek ‘dialogue with all stakeholders’; Told Home Minister to ensure JK Govt doesn’t give provocative statements, says Sagar

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived here on Wednesday for two-day visit, in an attempt by New Delhi to restore normalcy in Kashmir which has witnessed 68 civilian killings in forces’ action in the past 47 days of uprising.

Soon after arriving here, Singh took a review of security situation before meeting delegations of several political parties who reiterated the demand that New Delhi should initiate dialogue with “all stakeholders” to address the Kashmir issue.

Before leaving from New Delhi, Singh extended an open invitation to all “who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, and Jamhooriyat”.

“Leaving New Delhi for Srinagar on a two day visit (and) shall interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders,” Singh, accompanied by Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and other officials, tweeted, before leaving for Srinagar.

“I am staying at the Nehru Guest House (in Srinagar). Those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat are welcome.”

Singh’s visit to Kashmir follows meeting of opposition parties of Jammu and Kashmir with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi earlier this month.

Amid tight security, Singh, who is on second visit to this place in less than two months, flew by a special plane to Srinagar “international” airport. From there, his cavalcade drove to Nehru Guest House through uptown areas of Srinagar “to get a feel of the ground situation” before he met several delegations of state political parties.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah led a six-member National Conference delegation to meeting with the Home Minister and, according to sources, urged upon him that New Delhi should initiate dialogue with all stakeholders to find a lasting solution to Kashmir problem.

Omar, who is also working President of National Conference, demanded immediate ban on use of pellet guns. More than 500 persons have suffered injuries in their eyes due to pellets used by forces as “crowd controlling tool”.

Senior National Conference member Ali Muhammad Sagar said his party also told the Union Minister that the State government should not give “instigating statements”.

“This provokes the people and then everyone comes out on streets,” he said, referring to statements of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her cabinet colleague Sajad Gani Lone that only five percent people were part of ongoing uprising.

Singh’s visit is seen as an effort by Government of India to restore normalcy in Kashmir, which has been reeling under curfew and restrictions for the past 47 days, post Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8.

A delegation of State Congress led by party president GA Mir called on the Home Minister here and apprised him about the “extremely turbulent situation” in Kashmir.

“We strongly urged the Home Minister that Centre should initiate a comprehensive, meaningful and sustained political dialogue with all stakeholders in the State without any further loss of time,” said a Congress leader who was part of the delegation.

However, Mir addressed media later, saying they returned “disappointed” from the meeting.

“It is unfortunate that the Home Minister had nothing to offer to ease out the tension in Kashmir. He (the Home Minister) had nothing new to offer to the people of Kashmir and even brushed aside what the opposition parties had told the Prime Minister during a meeting in New Delhi,” he said.

“We were expecting a team from New Delhi would engage all stakeholders. They can at least stop killings and start dialogue,” he said.

A 17-member PDP delegation, led by party General Secretary Muhammad Sartaj Madni, also met the Home Minister and discussed with him the prevailing situation in the state. The BJP delegation that met Singh was led by party’s State President, Sat Sharma.

State Secretary CPI-M, MY Tarigami who also met Singh said he sought Government of India should reach out to “cross section of people unconditionally”. “I also pressed for ban on use of pellet guns and an end to arrests,” Targami said.

Former Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir-led delegation of Democratic Nationalist Party urged upon the need for starting dialogue for resolving the present crisis apart from seeking a special package for injured youth and directions to forces to stop pellet guns and vacate school buildings.

“I told the Home Minister to immediately start a dialogue over Kashmir as assured by the Prime Minister during a meeting with the opposition leaders of J&K,” said Mir.

Chairman Peoples Democratic Front Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen also Wednesday called on Rajnath and sought immediate resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue and talks with all separatists including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

 “I also reminded the Home Minister of assurance by Prime Minister during the recent meeting with the State opposition leaders and stressed for carrying forward the dialogue process”.

“Boycotting Home Minister Rajnath Singh is not a great idea. Meeting him, expressing your anger, anguish, apprehensions, disappointments and demands is,” wrote Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s media consultant, Suhail Bukhari on his Facebook wall.

Earlier during the day, the Home Minister held a meeting with different wings of administration including security and health.

Singh, sources said, asked top brass of forces, dealing with situation on ground, to exercise “maximum restraint” while dealing with protesters and “appreciated their efforts in maintaining law and order”.

After the meeting, the Home Minister had separate meetings with heads of para-military forces and state police chief for “understanding their working conditions and also to enquire whether there was an operational requirement.”

During his last visit to Kashmir the Home Minister had said New Delhi wants an “emotional relationship” with the state and “not just need-based” while assuring that Government of India would talk to whosoever needed once normalcy was restored in the State.