July 2016 News

No Role For Third Power, We Want To Have Emotional Bond With Kashmir: Rajnath Singh

24 July 2016
The Indian Express
Bashaarat Masood

Srinagar: RULING out any role for a 'third power' and asking Pakistan to stay away from Kashmir, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday set the restoration of 'peace and normalcy' as the main condition to initiate talks with those 'we have to talk with' in the Valley. 'There is no role for any third power to improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,' Singh said at the end of his two-day visit to the Valley. 'We want to tell our neighbouring country (Pakistan) that you are yourself a victim of terrorism. You enter the Lal Masjid to eradicate terrorism. And on the other hand, you ask the youth of Kashmir to pick up guns. This should end,' he said. Later, making her first appearance before the media after violence erupted across the Valley following the killing of militant Burhan Wani on July 8, Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti accused Pakistan of instigating youth in Kashmir. Slamming Pakistan for its 'duplicity', Mufti said, 'We have sympathy for Pakistan. But when their own children, from madrassas, take up guns, they use drones against them, hang them they instigated our youth, saying that if you pick up guns, you will become leaders, you will become martyrs.' In a departure from her traditional soft stand on separatists, Mufti said, 'We remember it (Kashmir) when the situation is not good. When the situation gets normal, we forget it. We are all responsible for it, the state's politicians and the Centre.' Earlier, the Union Home Minister did not directly refer to separatists but said that the Centre wanted to have an 'emotional bond with Kashmir'. He also said that he had asked security forces to refrain from using pellet guns to control crowds. Singh, who interacted with representatives of various political parties on Sunday, said he would welcome any constructive suggestions for improving the situation in the Valley. 'As far as the Indian government is concerned, I want to say in clear terms that we want to have an emotional bond with Kashmir and not just a bond of necessity. If there is a disagreement or a dispute that can be resolved by talks, sitting together there can't be any option other than this,' he said. While Singh called on Pakistan to change its 'behaviour', he was guarded on talks with separatists. 'We will talk to those who we would have to talk with,' he said in response to questions on whether the Centre would engage with the separatists. 'Let peace and normalcy be restored first. We will talk to Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) about who to talk with and who not to talk with,' said Singh. Expressing sorrow over the killings of civilians in Kashmir, Singh reminded people of the 2014 floods. 'People should not forget the same security personnel put their lives in danger to save people (during the floods),' said Singh. Asked whether he would apologise for the civilian killings, he said, 'I have expressed sorrow. Could there be something bigger than expressing sorrow? There couldn't be anything bigger.' Appealing to youngsters to desist from stone-pelting, Singh said he has asked for 'maximum restraint' from security forces, too. 'We have continuously been telling security forces that they should exercise maximum restraint. I want to appeal to youth not to pelt stones. And I want to tell our jawans that they should refrain from using pellet guns,' he said. Singh said he would look into a report submitted by interlocutors appointed by Centre after the 2010 protests and suggestions made by former Union minister P Chidambaram. 'Since our government was formed, I don't have any information on whether there has been any discussion on it (the interlocutors' report). But I will see this report. As far as Chidambaram is concerned, I will look into his suggestions. If there are any practical suggestions, we will work on them,' he said. Acknowledging that concerns have been expressed over the use of pellet guns, Singh said that he had announced in Parliament that an expert committee would submit a report within two months on other non-lethal methods of crowd control. 'I have told the Chief Minister that those injured who can't be treated here should be sent to Delhi. If their number is high, we can arrange a special plane,' he said. Chief Minister Mufti, meanwhile, sought the phased withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as a confidence-building measure and said, 'We are not saying you revoke it in one go. But (you can revoke it) at some places on an experimental basis. You can monitor how the situation turns out. If it remains peaceful, remove it from other places. If you feel that militancy doesn't allow it, you can impose it again.'