Srinagar: The delegation of Indian parliamentarians led by home minister Rajnath Singh returned empty-handed from Kashmir on Monday. Only India-backed political parties, a section of ambitious government employees, and non-descript groups chose to meet the delegation.
The embarrassment was visible on the home minister’s face who could not speak anything beyond rhetoric during his smartly-managed press conference at the lawns of Lalit Grand Hotel here. Rajnath refused to endorse Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s letter to Hurriyat Conference leaders, in which she urged them to meet the all-party delegation (APD). Rajnath also said that his government had neither given a nod to a group of MPs to meet Hurriyat leaders, nor denied their initiative. However, he sought to ridicule the Hurriyat leaders for closing their doors on the MPs saying it was against Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat.
India’s home minister said that the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government had the full backing of the center and that it would effectively tackle the ongoing situation in Kashmir.
Singh said that he had been informed on Sunday that some members of the APD went to meet Hurriyat leaders. “We had not said yes or no to the initiative. But you know what happened there. I don’t want to get into the details,” he said and plunged into the details.
“It can be said this (denying audience) indeed is not Kashmiriyat. It cannot be considered as Insaniyat (humanity). Someone went for talks and they were not ready to talk. This is not even jamhooriyat (democracy),” Rajnath said. He emphasised that the MPs had gone to meet Hurriyat leaders in their “individual capacity”.
When asked as to why Mehbooba Mufti wrote a letter to Hurriyat leaders as PDP president and not as J&K CM, he sought to distance the central government from her letter. “I have been told about the letter to Hurriyat leaders,” he said, and that was all he said.
Rajnath said that the Parliament was “the largest panchayat of India” and it was “extremely serious” about the situation in Kashmir. Because of the seriousness of the situation, he said, the 26-member Parliamentary delegation had arrived in Kashmir.
“The delegation comprising MPs from 20 political parties met around 300 people from 30 delegations from political parties, civil society, university teachers, vice chancellor, fruit-growers, students and some intellectuals,” he said. He said the delegation also discussed the situation with the Governor and with the CM. He said everyone wished the situation to return to normalcy.
He expressed optimism that the situation would improve. “There are no two opinions that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and will be integral part of India,” he said.
He said the central government was ready to talk to everybody who wanted peace and normalcy. “The central government is cooperating with the state government and the Mehbooba Mufti-led government is trying to improve the situation,” Singh said. He said he had tweeted before arriving in Srinagar that anyone with faith in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat was welcome to come for talks.
“Baatcheet ke liye sirf darwaza nahi, roshandan bhi khule hein (For dialogue, not only our doors are open but also the windows),” he said. He refused to comment on whether talks would be conducted on different channels. “There is no track one, two, three or four,” he said.
Rajnath said that when he had arrived in Kashmir on July 24 and 25, he received complaints against the use of pellet guns. “I had announced constitution of a committee to sumbit report on the use of pellet guns within two months. It’s not been even two months and the suggestion of non-lethal PAVA shells has emerged. I believe those won’t cause any deaths or injuries to people,” he said, adding, “Yesterday one thousand PAVA shells have arrived.”
He also provided phone numbers (2302923, 23092885) of a home ministry official who would look into complaints of Kashmiris residing in India about their studies or trade.
He asked the media to show sensitivity to the situation of Kashmir while reporting. “Discussions with the delegations have been fine. I appeal to the friends of media that the situation in Kashmir is a cause of concern. We need the support of everyone,” he said.
Rajnath refused to discuss details of what proposals were discussed with the delegations when he was asked to give his viewpoint on the NC’s autonomy proposal or the ruling PDP’s self-rule formula.
“We have talked to the delegations. I will not get into the discussion as to who was saying what in the past. We will continue to take suggestions and cooperation from everyone,” he said.
He obliquely denied any involvement with Pakistan. “Pehle desh walon se baatcheet kijiye (first talk to the people of the country),” he said.
The 26-member delegation included Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS in PMO Dr Jetendra Singh, Sanjay Rawat (Shiv Sena), Anandrao Adusa (Shiv Sena), Thota Narasimhan (TDP), Ramvilas Paswan (JSJP), Prem Singh Chandumajra (SAD) and Biswajit Daimary (BFP) from the National Democratic Alliance. From the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) were Mallikarjan Kharge (INC), Gulam Nabi Azad (INC), Ambika Soni (INC) and Tariq Anwar (NCP). Others from prominent political parties included Dr P Venugopal (AIADMK), Prof Saugata Roy (AITC), Dilip Tirkey, AP Jithender Reddy (TRS), Sitaram Yedchury (CPIM), Sharad Yadav (JDU), Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), D Raja (CPI), Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF), Dushyant Chautala (INLD), Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM), Dharamvira Gandhi (AAP), E Ahmad (IUML), MK Premchandran (RSP) and Tiruchi Siva (DMK).
Immediately after the press conference, the delegation left for Jammu in a chartered flight for a brief interaction with the people there.