Srinagar: After the utter failure of his visit to Kashmir a month ago, India’s home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday arrived for the second time since the uprising began on July 8 to reassess the situation. Before boarding a chartered IAF plane in New Delhi, he tweeted his desire to meet “all who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat.” Singh announced his surprise visit a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his desire to hold “dialogue within the parameters of the Indian Constitution”.
On July 24, when Singh left Kashmir, 50 civilians had been killed by government forces while squashing public protests and 2,200 had been injured. A month after, the death toll is 69, the number of injured has crossed 8,000. The number of pellet-hit civilians who have permanently or partially lost vision is at a staggering 500.
Shortly after arriving at the high-security Nehru Guest House in the vicinity of Raj Bhawan, Rajnath Singh was briefed by the topmost army, intelligence and state administration officials. The XV Corps commander Lt Gen Satish Kumar Dua, Director General of Police K Rajindra, Chief Secretary BR Sharma, and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Basheer Khan were prominent speakers in the meeting. Sources said that the corps commander, who is also the security advisor to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, briefed the home minister on the army’s area dominance, especially on the movement of vehicles on major highways in Kashmir.
While prominent trade leaders and industrialists announced a boycott of their meeting with the home minister this time also, Singh was delighted to receive two pro-India political delegations in the afternoon who had given him a miss the last time. The first delegation that met Singh was that of the opposition Congress, which was led by former minister and JKPCC chief Gulam Ahmad Mir. “The delegation apprised the HM about the rising anger among the people. The delegation also sought immediate ban on pellet and other types of lethal weapons,” a Congress statement said.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah led the second delegation of his party leaders, including Ali Muhammad Sagar and Mubarak Gul, to the meeting with the home minister. In the hopur-long meeting, Omar reiterated his demand for dialogue with all stakeholders in the Kashmir issue to permanently put a stop to the cycle of public uprisings.
Singh later met a delegation of ruling PDP leaders, mostly comprising legislators. The BJP delegation led by legislator and party’s state chief Sat Sharma held a detailed meeting with the visiting federal minister. The home minister also met cabinet ministers, but not chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. Singh will formally meet chief minister on Thursday. Sources said that around 10 unidentified civil society groups are also due to meet him in the morning.
President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) Mushtaq Ahmad and Chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) Mohammad Yasin Khan told Kashmir Reader that they decided to not meet Singh. “We received invite yesterday (Tuesday) but we are boycotting the meeting with Rajnath Singh,” Khan said.
Businessman and civil society member Shakeel Qalandar said that cosmetic and half-hearted measures from Government of India were not going to change the Kashmir situation. “What will the Indian home minister get by meeting a handful of shikara-wallas and sarkari molvis? There has to be a formal dialogue between Government of India and the real stake holders,” Qalandar said.
Yasin Khan said that instead of talking to fringe elements and mainstream politicians who are India’s own agents, the Government of India should talk to Syed Ali Geelani, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who represent the people of Kashmir. “We are ready to talk to Government of India and the visiting home minister provided he comes up with a blueprint about the resolution of Kashmir. In Parliament they accept Kashmir is a dispute and in Kashmir they engage fringe elements to hoodwink Indian as well as the international community,” Khan said.
In the evening, Rajnath Singh met Governor N.N. Vohra at the Raj Bhavan. Vohra briefed the Singh in detail about the situation and the steps required to be taken for the restoration of normalcy in the State, an official spokesman said. Rajiv Mehrishi, Home Secretary, was present during the discussions.