Srinagar, August 22 (PTI): The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehboob Mufti, has strongly refuted Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s contention that the stone throwing youthful protesters in Kashmir are not satyagrahis (those who protest by the use of moral and physical force).
Hours after a delegation of opposition leaders of Jammu and Kashmir called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday, Mehbooba said that Kashmiris are not stone throwers but peaceful people driven to violence by pro-militant groups and the excesses indulged in by the Central government’s Security Forces.
The Chief Minister called upon the central Indian government to reach out to the people of Kashmir to stem the anger and alienation sweeping the valley.
“The prevailing painful situation in Kashmir necessitates reaching out to all shades of the political opinion in the state and initiating substantive political and economic measures to revive and consolidate the peace and resolution process,” Mehbooba said while addressing a public gathering on the sidelines of a function at Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
She sought Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to respond to people’s innermost yearning for peace with dignity.
“The trust people of the State have reposed in democratic institutions, offers an opportunity to work through peaceful and reconciliatory means towards addressing all the dimensions of the Kashmir issue in a manner that balances and promotes enduring political and economic stability in the State,” Mehbooba said.
68 people including two policemen have been killed and thousands others injured in clashes between security force personnel and youth during ongoing protests triggered by killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in Kokernag area of South Kashmir on July 8.
Mehbooba, whose government has been accused of mishandling the situation and not reaching out to people, said violence in any form only brings miseries to the people and is not a means to seek resolution of problems.
“A solution can only be found through democratic and political means involving engagement and dialogue. Time has come for the State’s political leadership, cutting across divides, to work towards retrieving the people of Jammu & Kashmir, with honor and dignity, from the political uncertainties they are engulfed in for the past seven decades,” she said.
57-year-old Mehbooba said neither stones nor the guns either in hands of militants or security forces would enable a peaceful solution of Kashmir problem.
“Our children are today getting killed or maimed, our social fabric is slipping into disorder, economy is in shambles, educational sector has suffered immensely, tourism inflow is zero, shopkeepers are not able to do business, industrial units are shut, development process has come to a halt and people are feeling suffocated. We shall have to ponder over how long we are going to allow this self destruction to continue?”
Kashmir has been witnessing curfew, restrictions and shutdown since July 9 and life in Valley has remained totally crippled in last 45 days.
She urged the Central government not to see all Kashmiris through the security prism.
“Kashmiris are peace loving people and don’t like violence. They (Kashmiris) are not stone-throwers but peace loving people. They want to open their shops, they want to send their wards to school, they want to come out of the fear-psychosis they have been forced into,” she said, adding: “I appeal to the Centre to take care of the peace-loving people in Kashmir and reach out to them. They are our own people and they are in a problem.”
On the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani, which triggered the ongoing unrest in the Valley, Mehbooba said three militants were killed in a gun battle and it was nothing new as encounters and killing of militants was going on in Kashmir since the eruption of militancy in early nineties.
“But a section of people got an opportunity to rake up an issue and put peaceful Kashmir on the boil. It is tragic to note that they have not only got scores of youth killed in this senseless violence but they had also forced thousands of people to flee Kashmir to safeguard the future of their children,” she added.
Modi Climbes Down
Meanwhile ,Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have mellowed a bit after meeting Kashmiri opposition leaders led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, and having talks with the incumbent Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti.
With both Abdullah and Mehbooba seeking a political dialogue to reach a political solution to the issues underlying the violence in Kashmir, Modi said he is ready for a political solution but “within the constitution of India”. In other words, Modi is ready for solution which does not mean independence or Azadi for Kashmir.