Kashmir: Rajnath Singh visit fails to cut ice

Srinagar (12 September 2017): Five C’s - compassion, communication, co-existence, confidence-building and consistency - would form the basis for permanent solution to the Kashmir problem, emphasized Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir which ended on 12 September.

Terming his visit as a follow up to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance during his recent Independence-day speech that Kashmir issue can be resolved by embracing Kashmiris, the Home Minister reiterated that Government of India was ready to talk to all stakeholders. He, however, refused to comment on whether a formal invitation would be extended to Hurriyat leaders.

“It is our endeavor to give people of the state peace with dignity,” he said, while addressing media here on September 11 before flying to Jammu for the second leg of his visit to the state.

Earlier, the Home Minister, during his stay in Valley had remarked that he could see that the “trees of peace” haven’t dried up and “green buds of peace” could be seen on those trees. On National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) crackdown on separatists and continued raids in Kashmir, Singh said NIA was an autonomous organization. “They must have got some information and they are working as per the law. But care should be taken that there is no harassment of any innocent person.” On the use of pellet guns in Kashmir, Singh said the weapon was being used “very sparingly” now.

Amid tight security arrangements, Union Home Minister visited District Police Lines (DPL) Anantnag in south Kashmir, September 10, and addressing the cops, Singh announced bullet proof vests and vehicles for all police stations in the state. He later addressed a Sainik Sammelan at CRPF 90 Battalion Camp in Anantnag, where he said, “Courage is not something that can be bought from the market; you are born with unassailable and unmatched courage.”

After his visit to south Kashmir, the Union Home Minister chaired a high level security review meeting (September 10 evening) where he reportedly instructed that children below 18 years should be treated in accordance with the Juvenile Act and kept in juvenile homes as those children require proper counseling.

A shutdown was observed across the Valley, September 10even while restrictions were imposed in several areas of old Srinagar city. The call for shutdown was given by the joint separatist leadership comprising  of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik against the visit of Home Minister to the state.

During his stay in Kashmir, the Home Minister met many delegations including political parties and civil society groups. While the delegation of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was led by party’s senior vice president Mohammad Sartaj Madni, National Conference delegation was led by its working president and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah.

According to the local news agency, KNS Omar while highlighting the political, historical and constitutional context of the state’s special status,registered his party’s concern and disappointment over the Central Government’s ambiguity in defending the state’s special status in the Apex Court with respect to Article 35-A. The delegation also sought a sustained and open-ended political engagement with stakeholders in Kashmir irrespective of their ideology and urged New Delhi and Islamabad to make sincere and sustained efforts towards resumption of a comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues including Kashmir.

The PDP delegation while apprising the Home Minister about the prevailing political situation in the state emphasized that the status quo on the special position of the state should be maintained. A delegation of the state BJP leaders led by state president Sat Paul Sharma sought deportation of Rohingya Muslims living in Jammu city and abrogation of Article 35-A.

A delegation of CPI (M) led by MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged Government of India not to fiddle with the special status of the state and emphasized that Article 35A has a constitutional position and was a bridge between Kashmir and New Delhi.

A delegation of the All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) led by its president Jagmohan Singh urged the Home Minister to take concrete steps and translate the announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15 vis-à-vis Kashmir into a reality. “The GoI should resolve the issue pertaining to Article 35-A politically rather than legally as the issue is related with the sentiments of the people of the state and needs to be tackled carefully.”

The Union Home Minister also met a delegation of J&K Congress leaders headed by the former Pradesh Congress Committee chief Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed on September 10 and told them that Government of India had nothing to do with the petition on Article 35-A in the Supreme court. He said some group has raised the issue in the Apex Court. The Congress delegation told Home Minister that BJP’s policy towards Kashmir would further alienate Kashmiris. “If the same trend and policies continue, it might help BJP to get votes in rest of India, but with these policies India may lose Kashmir forever.”

A five-member delegation of Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) led by Er Rasheed (September 10) reiterated that the best way to resolve Kashmir dispute is “to hold plebiscite on both sides of LoC”.According to a statement issued by AIP, Er Rasheed told the Home Minister that talks and threats can’t go together. “If New Delhi means business, it has to stop humiliating Kashmiris and their genuine leadership and understand that the pro-resistance leadership has a strong mass support only for the reason that people have given them a mandate to represent their sentiments, aspirations and rights. In principle, we are not against probing anything but why should only pro-resistance leaders be targeted. If probing financial resources and creating assets is the only issue that needed to be probed, then government must probe the huge assets created by politicians and bureaucrats who pretend to be loyal to the Indian state.” The delegation further demanded the release of all political prisoners, shifting every Kashmiri prisoner lodged in jails outside the state to their native districts, stopping gross human rights violations by the so-called village defense committees (VDCs) in Jammu region, allowing students to form unions in universities and colleges, stopping harassment of students studying outside the state, return of border migrants to their homes in Karen, Karnah, Uri and other sectors, inquiry into forcible disappearances, withdrawal of FIRs in police stations against youth for alleged stone pelting, restoring respect and rights of jail-returned militants and families of active militants, the statement added.

The delegations of People’s Conference led by party president and Minister Sajjad Gani Lone, Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF) led by MLA Hakeem Mohammad Yasin also called on the Home Minister.

The other delegations that met the Union Home Minister included Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Adventure Tour Operators Association, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association, Pahalgam Hotel Owners Association, Kashmir Hoteliers Club, Kashmir Shikara Owners Association, House Boat Owners Association, Youth Delegation, Kashmir Pandit Sangrash Smiti, Shri Gurdawara Parbhandak Committee Srinagar, All Gujjar & Bakerwal Conference and Self Employed Women Association etc.

Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee (JKCC) here on September 10 asked New Delhi to stop gauging the pulse of resilience of Jammu & Kashmir people and instead focus on steps to be taken to resolve the political issue. JKCC convener Siraj Ahmad addressing media here on September 10 pitched for the restoration of the autonomous status of the state, demilitarization of the civilian areas, withdrawal of draconian laws, stopping all human rights abuses in the state and initiating time-bound unconditional dialogue with separatists and Pakistan.

The Home Minister assured help in the case of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA). Yousuf was arrested by NIA on September 5 for his alleged involvement in stone-pelting protests and flown to Delhi where a court sent him on 10-day remand. Kashmir Young Journalists Association, September 10, staged a sit-in here against the arrest.

The Union Home Minister later flew to Jammu, September 11 and interacted with many delegations including Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Federation of Industries, Jammu ParyatanVikas Mandal, Jammu Hotels and Bar Association, all displaced, refugees including Kashmir migrants, West Pakistani refugees etc.. A delegation of West Pakistan Refugees apprised the Union Home Minister about difficulties being faced by them in the absence of permanent resident certificates since 1947. Various Kashmir Pandit delegations met the Home Minister and demanded a policy for their dignified return to the Valley of Kashmir.The delegation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Jammu, led by its president Rakesh Gupta, requested the Home Minister to deport Rohingyas from Jammu. The Chamber also suggested the rotation of the officials involved in cross-LoC trade so that no one can enter into any sort of nexus which ultimately leads to maligning of the important confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan.

The Union Home Minister, while responding to a question in Jammu on the deportation of Rohingya Muslims who have taken shelter in India, said that they could pose a security threat to India. “Rohingyas are illegal immigrants. Security threat can’t be ruled out,” he said, September 12.

Pertinently, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in a statement here on September 11 said the positivity exhibited by the Home Minister would go a long way in putting balm on the wounds of the people of the state.

Dukhtaran-e-Millat’s general secretary, Nahida Nasreen, in a statement here on September 11 said that Kashmir has been turned “into a hell by the security forces and lakhs of people have been murdered by them, lakhs have been injured and thousands remain incarcerated in jails. The miseries of Kashmiris will end only when the illegal Indian occupation of this state ends.” She said such visits by “Indian politicians are useless and futile and are meant to hoodwink the people as well as the international community. There have been so many of such futile exercises in the past; the only solution to Kashmir issue is to give the people their right to self-determine their future.” Nasreen further added “No As, Bs or Cs will work here. The only permanent solution to Kashmir issue is for India to leave Kashmir by ending its occupation.”