Stressed Out... Kashmir Is A Very Difficult Place, Full Of Surprises: Omar

Stressed Out... Kashmir Is A Very Difficult Place, Full Of Surprises: Omar

3 October 2010
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says he is “stressed out” dealing with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir because “logic and reason doesn’t work” these days. He calls Kashmir a “very difficult place” and says “it is awfully different to see things from within”. But he is confident that the situation in the state, which witnessed four months of civil unrest, will calm down soon though he doesn’t want to fix a timeframe. “Kashmir surprises us all. We are working hard and let us hope for the best.” In an interview with The Sunday Express, Abdullah said the eight-point package announced by the Centre puts the “onus on us”. He acknowledged that the state government could have taken a decision on its own on the withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act and on the presence of security forces. “But that would have been different. It is better this way. We know the onus is on us now.” He said the Unified Command, the high-level security grid in the state, will deliberate and take a look. “Don’t expect results (on withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act) overnight. It will happen in select areas after due consultation. First, we will deal with this whole issue of the presence of security forces, bunkers etc. Subsequently, we will take up the Disturbed Areas Act.” He called the eight-point package a beginning. “This is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is resolution of the issue, both its internal and external dimension. Hopefully, there will be space to talk to Pakistan as well.” He said the decision to appoint interlocutors to begin the process of dialogue was an important move forward. “It is important to find a mix. There will be political people as well as others,” he said. Abdullah said he felt “stressed out” dealing with the situation. “I have always sought a political solution for Kashmir. I don’t believe economic packages or development will alone solve the problem. I put forth my government’s view before the top leadership of the country at the inauguration of the railway line in Anantnag even when everything was calm. I have always worked to facilitate a political solution (of the larger issue). I don’t believe in deception in politics. But logic and reason doesn’t seem to work these days.” He said the reasons for the unrest were different from the “perception” created by his opponents and the media. “Kashmir is a very difficult place. Everything is very complicated here. It is awfully different to see things from within. Nothing is as simple as you see it from outside.” Asked whether he felt his authority as Chief Minister was under question during the last three months of unrest, he said: “Remember, this is not an agitation against the state government. This is a Quit Jammu and Kashmir movement and see who has left. Businessmen, traders and students have left Kashmir.” He said he hasn’t yet analysed how and why the situation took such a turn. “One requires a certain amount of peace of mind to introspect. We are still dealing with it (situation). There are still people out there who are foolish enough to throw stones at school buses and children. I first want normalcy restored as soon as possible.” Asked why he didn’t meet the families of youths killed in firing, Abdullah said he was in touch with several such families. “I chose not to visit these families. It is not because I did it for security reasons. I was worried that if people living in the neighbourhood create a situation where my security does something, then people will ask me why I went there in the first place. I didn’t want to cause a tragedy. It is better this way.” On the statements by armed forces on issues like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, he said: “It is my belief that it is not the Army’s job to analyse policy issues, certainly not publicly when there are mechanisms for discussion like the Unified Command. There are other channels of communication that can be used.” Asked about his government’s promise to separatists that peaceful protests would be allowed, Abdullah said: “We allowed a procession on Eid and you saw what happened. They burnt down two government buildings.” He claimed there were instances when securitymen were fired at from within the processions. “We have policemen with bullet injuries. I can tell you there were guns in processions at Pulwama, Anantnag, Sopore and Pattan. There was one particular case where a grenade was about to be exploded. The blame would have come on the police.” How is his coalition with the Congress? “It is absolutely fine. There has been a fair amount of discussion within the coalition and we are trying to handle this situation together. There are individual ambitions which get tapered down by the party leadership which takes decisions in its own interest and the interest of the state.”


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