Hitting out at the State Government for "creating atmosphere of fear and anger" in Kashmir, opposition National Conference on Monday expressed concern over "worsening situation" in the region and asked New Delhi to restart dialogue process with all stakeholders. The party cautioned both State Government and Government of India for "continuing to treat" Kashmir as law and order problem while reiterating that the issue was political in nature.
The National Conference core group, the highest decision-making body in the party, led by President Dr Farooq Abdullah met today here to discuss the prevailing situation in J&K, particularly in the Valley and strategies on strengthening the party ahead of the upcoming polls in the State.
During the meeting, which was also attended by party's Working President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the members expressed dismay and disappointment "on the way the situation is being allowed to worsen in Kashmir."
"Arrests, threats of use of force, unchecked use of pellet guns are all adding to the atmosphere of fear and anger and the central government should immediately correct this," observed the meeting which lasted for four hours.
In wake of the recent statement by the army chief Bipin Rawat that those who would obstruct anti-militancy operations in Kashmir would face tough action, the meeting expressed concern that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Government was now handling Kashmir through army and other security agencies.
"The army chief's remarks are the outcome of this policy. Instead of initiating political action on Kashmir, New Delhi is implementing the iron fist policy," the meeting, as per a senior party member, observed.
Party's General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said the recent developments including army chief Bipin Rawat's "open warning to civilians in Kashmir," the deteriorating situation in south Kashmir and elsewhere and Union Home Ministry's proposal to go tough on Kashmir dominated the meeting.
"We were expecting that the central government, after the bloody 2016, will take steps for bringing peace in Kashmir, the things are happening contrary to that in form of threats and policies being shaped to further muzzle the voices," said Sagar.
"The absence of governance on the ground coupled with absence of any political leadership on part of the state government is adding to the already worrying situation," the meeting observed, castigating the government of India for its failure to recognize the political problem of Kashmir, terming it a "grave concern".
"Both state and the central government continue to deal with Kashmir as a law and order problem instead of a political issue which needs political solution," the members expressed concern.
Sagar said given the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, the Core Group asked the Government of India to engage all stakeholders including Hurriyat to address Kashmir problem.
Senior Core Group member Devinder Singh Rana said the members put forth their views about the situation in their respective areas.
"The situation in Kashmir was discussed threadbare and it was resolved that the party will not remain spectator to the miseries that are inflicted on people and if the Government continues to be mute spectator the party will raise the issues in concerned quarters," said Rana who is also Provincial President Jammu.
Sources said during the meeting the senior Abdullah also stressed upon the members to focus on strengthening the party ahead of the elections.
The core group put at rest the speculation that the meeting was called to finalize the candidature for upcoming Lok Sabha polls for Srinagar and Anantnag seats and to finalize strategy for the Panchayat polls.
"Omar Sahab made it clear that these things (polls) will be discussed only after the government takes decision on conducting the elections," said the sources. "National Conference has a role to play for the welfare of the people and the party can't be silent spectator to the worsening situation in J&K."