August 2016 News

Delhi Steps Up To Srinagar: Talks With Moderates, All-party Meet On Aug 12

10 August 2016
The Indian Express
Amitabh Sinha and Shubhajit Roy

New Delhi: Accepting demands from several Opposition parties, the government Wednesday said it was convening an all-party meeting Friday to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and that it was ready to initiate political dialogue with mainstream political parties, 'moderates' and 'other organisations' in the state. Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Rajya Sabha that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be present at the all-party meeting. He said the government was also considering the Opposition demand for sending an all-party delegation to Kashmir but some groundwork needed to be done before the visit for a positive outcome. 'As far as initiating dialogue is concerned, we have said that we are ready to talk to mainstream political parties, moderates and other organisations. And we will tell the Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) as well that who all should we talk to you should initiate talks with them, we are also ready to talk to them. We all should together participate in talks. That is why I have also said we are considering the visit of an all-party delegation as well,' he said. Singh said that based on his two-day stay in the Valley last month and the information he had been receiving, he could authoritatively say that the situation in Kashmir was not entirely being controlled by the local population. 'Whatever is happening in Kashmir is Pakistan-sponsored,' he said. He ruled out any talks with Pakistan on Kashmir. 'If talks happen with Pakistan, it would not be about Kashmir, it would be about Pakistan Occupied Kashmir,' he said, amid thumping of desks. 'No power in the world can take Kashmir away from us,' he said. Singh said he had been told that 'sometimes' ISIS flags are seen in Kashmir. 'What has ISIS done? It has killed Muslims also. I want to appeal to the youth in the Valley and tell them that Islam does not permit the killing of anyone, beheading anyone. People who indulge in these kinds of things bring a bad name to Islam,' he said. 'Slogans of Pakistan zindabad I didn't want to mention this but have to will not be allowed on Indian soil. Therefore, with all humility, I make an appeal to the people of Kashmir to stop people who do such things,' he said. The Rajya Sabha passed an unanimous resolution expressing 'deep concern' on the developments in the Valley since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The resolution appealed to the people of Kashmir to make all efforts for the return of normalcy in the state. A day earlier, the Prime Minister, speaking at a rally in Madhya Pradesh, reached out to the Valley, especially its youth, by invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee's mantra of 'insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat' to suggest it alone offers the way forward through dialogue. He also thanked 'all political parties, especially the Congress, for their very mature approach on the issue of Kashmir', underlining 'all parties speak in one voice on Kashmir'. On Wednesday, Rajya Sabha suspended all work to discuss the Kashmir situation. As many as 29 speakers from across parties participated in the discussion which was initiated by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Members like Sharad Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and Derek O'Brien wanted the use of pellet guns discontinued since these had led to eye injuries among many in Kashmir. Raising questions over Modi's remarks about 'insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat', Azad said the appeal to Kashmiris should go from the 'heart' rather than 'lips' to enable 'integration of mind and heart'. 'We should appeal for peace and tranquility from here for a better future of Kashmir. This kind of unison voice should go from Parliament. That apart, an all-party delegation should go there,' he said. He criticised the Prime Minister for his 'delayed' comments on the Kashmir situation and said even these were made at a rally in Madhya Pradesh rather than in Parliament. 'We are discussing the Kashmir issue for the fourth time. The Prime Minister should come. The Prime Minister chose Madhya Pradesh to speak on Kashmir. He did not come to this House,' he said, adding 'since when has Madhya Pradesh become the Capital of the country?' Azad took a swipe at Modi's statement on 'insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat', saying such statements only suited Vajpayee. 'Such words sound weird if it comes from someone who does not believe in them.' Azad's remark that violence increased in the Valley after the BJP came to power in alliance with PDP triggered a brief uproar as ruling party members reacted sharply. He said successive governments fought against militancy in the Valley, but 'perhaps you give statements for votes. You have only been indulging in fuelling the fire and not dousing it. Since the day you came to power, Kashmir is on fire I don't want to go into reasons'. As the treasury benches objected, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said the situation in Kashmir is 'sensitive' and 'therefore it is imperative, as far as possible, we speak in one voice'. He urged members from all sides not to touch historical issues where 'we have difference of opinion.. This is not the occasion to discuss those issues members should speak from the national point of view'. Azad said while there is an issue of separatism, 'Kashmir is not communal, it is secular. There is a difference between separatism and communalism.' Highlighting that Kashmir is a 'complex issue', he said politics comes first, economic development at second place, followed by employment. He again targeted the Prime Minister: 'He tweets if something happens in Africa. Even if something happens in our enemy country, Pakistan, he issues condemnation. It is not wrong to show sympathy if humanity is hurt anywhere in the world. But in our own country, when the Crown of India is burning, does the heat not reach he should have spoken.' He said Modi spoke on Kashmir on the insistence of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. 'Had the CM not spoken, PM would not have spoken,' he said. Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav attacked Pakistan saying 'poison is being injected in the hearts and minds of the people' of Kashmir and that 'no solution will be effective till the time the source of this venom is blocked'. Referring to Pakistan TV, he said it glorifies and encourages terrorism, and can be watched in Kashmir. He asked the government why it was not being blocked. 'A terrorist was killed by our forces on July 8 and look at what happened Pakistan will always try to create trouble in Indian affairs. Till the time Pakistan is not taught a lesson, the Kashmir problem can't be solved,' Yadav said. TMC's Derek O'Brien said that Pakistan should not 'meddle' in India's affairs. Comparing India and Pakistan, he said while O'Briens living in India enjoy freedom, the arm of the family which had chosen Pakistan at the time of Partition had vanished. Referring to the Prime Minister's remark that young persons should have books, laptops and bats and not stones, O'Brien said if right steps are not taken, they may throw these things as well. 'It is one thing to be in Opposition and play Rambo and another to be in government with peace and serenity that governance requires,' he said. He emphasised on focusing not just on Kashmir but on the people of Kashmir. Pointing to greater Internet penetration, he said the situation is changing as opinion is being shaped on the web. Burhan Wani, he said, could be more dangerous on the Internet than he was on the street.

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