Rajnath, Mehbooba claim Kashmiri children are being used as human shield in clashes with forces
‘Stone pelters are only 5% of the population and we will deal with them under law’
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Aug 25: Taking a tough stand in one voice, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday claimed that ‘vested interests’ were using young Kashmiri children as a human shield in the current spell of violence and clashes with Police and security forces.
Hardening her unexpected stand---that was initiated by the BJP ally Sajjad Lone and PDP’s Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Baig in the last 10 days---Mehbooba asserted at her first Press conference after taking over as Chief Minister in April this year that less than 5% of the Valley population was involved in stone pelting and clashes with Police. She said that her Government would deal with the violent crowds under law and would not allow them to hold hostage rest 95% of the population. "Nothing will come of attacks on Police and the camps of security forces", Chief Minister asserted.
Mehbooba alleged that some people were using these young children as human shield and encouraging them to clash with Police and security forces. She claimed that the forces were observing maximum restraint and using minimum force in which, unfortunately, the young children in the fore front were getting hit. She nevertheless clarified, in response to a journalist’s question, that 95% of the population in Kashmir was in favour of “seeking a peaceful resolution to the issues”.
Uncharacteristic of her, ever since she made her foray in politics 20 years back, Mehbooba asserted that the youngsters who were hit by pellets, bullets or teargas shells had not gone to buy milk or toffees at an Army camp. Implicitly her argument was that the retaliation from the forces was a natural corollary and in self-defence for which the 'instigators', not her government, was responsible.
On his Janamashthami fast, Rajnath joined Mehbooba at the press conference that was held at the end of his two-day visit at the Chief Minister’s Fair View residence on Gupkar Road on the 48th day of the continued turbulence triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's death in an encounter on July 8. He had earlier visited Kashmir on July 23 and 24 and met over 40 delegations of politicians, traders and some members of the civil society. None other than the mainstream politicians called on him today as some of his July 24 guests had been reportedly beaten up for defying the separatists' call.
Even as Rajnath was calm and composed all through the press conference and his conduct was remarkably impressive, Mehbooba took umbrage on a journalist’s question who paralleled current street turbulence to that of 2010 and alleged that Mehbooba and then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had "swapped roles". He suggested that both were equally responsible for “killing” of scores of the Kashmiris, mostly teenagers.
“Don’t compare today’s situation with 2010. That time, there was fake encounter of Machhil”, Mehbooba grumbled. She said that current turbulence was the result of a genuine encounter in which three militants had got killed and her government was “in no way responsible”.
Making it once again clear that his Government’s efforts to seek resolution of the Kashmir problem would remain confined to the framework of the Indian constitution, Rajnath said that he was open to a discussion for anybody. He invoked the famous Vajpayee mantra of ‘Insaniyat, Jumhooriyat aur Kashmiriyat’ but invoked a caveat that India’s future was interlinked to that of Kashmir. “If Kashmir has no future, India has none”, Rajnath said. He said that whenever a Kashmiri youth or a security forces jawan dies in Kashmir, entire India feels the pain. “Don’t view India’s future separate from that of Kashmir”, he asserted.
While echoing Mehbooba’s contentious claim that young children from the poor families were being "exploited and misled" and pushed into the clashes and violence, Rajnath asked the Kashmiris to identify the people responsible for it. He implored the people of Kashmir to stop their children from falling in the trap of the vested interests. He disclosed that an all-party delegation would soon visit Jammu and Kashmir to start dialogue with a cross-section of people in the state.
Rajnath claimed that the Narendra Modi Government was seriously concerned about the chaotic situation and turbulence in Kashmir and pointed out that the Indian Home Minister was for the first time on his second visit in the Valley within a month. He regretted the loss of life in Kashmir but added that as many 4500 personnel of security forces and Police had also got injured in the clashes.
"Security personnel have been told to exercise restraint, and they are exercising maximum restraint while bearing the brunt of protestors. As a result, 4500 security personnel have been injured. I would like to appeal to everyone to not forget the role of security personnel during floods (of September 2014)," Home Minister said.
Rajnath said that an alternative to the pellet gun would be introduced immediately after a panel of experts would submit its report to the Government in the next three or four days. He said that in addition to raising a full battalion of Central paramilitary forces from the J&K youths, around 10,000 unemployed youths were currently being engaged as Special Police Officers.
Earlier, Rajnath held an hour-long meeting with the Chief Minister at her residence. He also met delegations of all the mainstream political parties, including Congress that had boycotted him during his previous visit. Officials said that Home Minister entertained 20-odd political delegations at Nehru Guest House.
Immediately after the press conference, Rajnath Singh, accompanied by union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, left back for New Delhi by BSF’s Embraer executive jet.
[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]