July 2016 News

Rajnath Singh, Ajit Doval Meet To Douse Fire In J&K

11 July 2016
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: As Kashmir continued to simmer with no let-down in attacks on security and government installations, taking the death toll to 32, home minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation twice during the day on Monday. National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, who was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's delegation to African countries, also cut short his visit to Kenya and rushed back. On reaching New Delhi, Doval straightaway drove to the office of Rajnath - who is also officiating as head of the government in the absence of Modi - where they hurdled for about 30 minutes. Home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and the IB chief also attended the meeting. Singh held a meeting with his cabinet colleague Arun Jaitley as well to seek ways to cool tempers in Kashmir and avoid its escalation. Encouraged at the turnout of voters in 2014 elections and BJP's success in the state, Modi's has rested his approach to Kashmir on two principles, security to deal with militants and development to isolate separatist from general public. His office abandoned all back channel and track II contacts with moderate separatist groups, who have since then joined hands with hardliners to gain relevance. As the first major challenge stares at the face of Modi government , his officials here expressed confidence that situation will calm down after July 13, when Kashmir will observe Martyr's Day , in memory of those killed in 1931 freedom struggle. It is observed as a national day in the state. Official sources here asserted that while government was trying to exercise maximum restraint, no mercy will be shown to those holding the gun and targeting civilian or security installations. Doval was confident to find solution to current impasse. 'If there are problems, there are solutions. We are quite confident and competent of finding solutions,' he told PTI when asked to comment on the situation in Kashmir. Sources here said, the decession to eliminate top militant leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen was taken almost two months ago at a meeting of top security officials headed by the NSA. Earlier, Singh reached out to Opposition Congress as well as former chief minister Omar Abuallah, seeking their help in returning the normalcy. He had also telephoned chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday and assured her all Central assistance. On Monday morning, Rajnath directed officials to ensure that paramilitary forces in Kashmir provide all assistance to the state government for restoration of peace and normalcy. The meeting was told that some 25,000 Amarnath pilgrims stuck from Srinagar to Sonmarg (Baltal base camp) are being escorted out. The home minister said that all steps should be taken for ensuring safety of Amarnath pilgrims as also that of Kashmiri Pandits. Houses of some Kashmiri Pandits had been attacked in some parts of the Valley, said an official, who was part of the meeting. Rajnath said that security forces should be deployed in sensitive places and additional paramilitary personnel be sent to the state if required. Rajnath also telephoned Congress president Sonia Gandhi and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah and discussed the prevailing situation. The move is seen an attempt by the Centre to take opposition leaders into confidence. The NC sources said that the former chief minister offered a helping hand towards maintaining peace, but asked for directions to the security forces to observe restraint. Congress, however, was more diplomatic. They issued two sets of statements attributed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. A statement was issued in Delhi, apparently for national consumption, where she said 'there can be no compromise on matters relating to national security and terrorism must be dealt with firmly.' She said the death of so many of our citizens and attack on security forces is very painful. The statement issued in Srinagar, however, quoted Mrs Gandhi saying she sympathised with bereaved families and even asking her partymen to visit injured people in hospitals and donate blood in order to ensure their proper treatment, besides providing them every help they require at this critical juncture. In both the statements, she, however, castigated the Modi government for failing to ensure safety of the people and frittering away political gains accrued by the previous Congress government. The ruling BJP asserted that the government was working with a policy of 'zero tolerance to terrorism'. Party's general secretary and pointsman for J&K, Ram Madhav, said restraint and calm should be the motto of both people and police. 'People in the valley should help bring normalcy. Restraint and calm should be the motto of people n police. Government wants peaceful and terror-free J&K for progress,' he tweeted. 'Loss of lives in South Kashmir unfortunate and saddening. We have too develop non-lethal ways of tackling such situations. Police too suffer heavily,' he added. The CPM, in a statement, said growing unrest in Kashmir is an extension of intense people's alienation. 'While the activities of the extremist groups need to be checked to maintain law and order and civilian rule, it cannot be an excuse for such use of force against stone-throwing protesters,' it said.