In Delhi, Mehbooba pitches for talks to solve Kashmir (Roundup)

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New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday pitched for peace talks to solve the Kashmir problem and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step in to heal wounds of the people of the turmoil-hit state, battling a month of a violent unrest that has claimed over 55 lives.

Mehbooba Mufti arrived here on an unannounced trip and met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. She is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

Officials said the Chief Minister and the Home Minister discussed the month-long unrest in the Kashmir Valley that has left more than 5,000 civilians and security forces personnel injured.

“I believe there is a need to heal wounds (of Kashmiris). If dialogue can do that, let us do it,” she said, referring to a political initiative involving India, Pakistan and the people of the state, to end the Kashmir dispute.

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Mehbooba Mufti was speaking to reporters after her meeting with the Home Minister in the North Block here.

“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been bad for the past one month. I am hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take this opportunity to try to heal the wounds of the Kashmir people.”

She said the central government must initiate the “peace process” that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had started to resolve the long-standing dispute.

“There will be a chance to continue the dialogue that was begun during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

“We want peace in Jammu and Kashmir and I am hopeful that the Centre will extend the hand of friendship to the Kashmiris. Jammu and Kashmir can become a bridge between India and Pakistan.”

Some 56 people have been killed and thousands injured in the weeks of turmoil, triggered by the July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani. Normal life in the Kashmir Valley has been completely thrown out of gears for the past one month due to a government-enforced curfew and separatist-called shutdown.

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The curfew was imposed immediately after the death of the militant commander to prevent people from taking to the streets for pro-freedom demonstrations. But despite the restriction, people frequently come out on roads. Many of these protests have turned violent. Protesters throw stones at security forces who retaliate with bullets and pellet guns.

Opposition parties in New Delhi have criticised the Prime Minister’s silence over the unrest in Kashmir.

Lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha demanded a discussion and also asked the government to call an all-party meeting on the issue.

“Today it’s one month of curfew, everything has stopped. I don’t think any state had curfew for 30 days after Independence. School, colleges are shut, there is almost nil attendance in secretariat,” Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

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“The government, and specially the Prime Minister, are mute spectators. India’s crown is on fire but the heat is not reaching the government in Delhi.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said the the situation in Kashmir was worse than Israel-Palestine conflict.

“In such a situation how can we remain silent? Why are we using pellet guns? It’s inhuman, it’s criminal, even Israel does not use it against Palestinians,” Yechury said.

Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said that the government’s “silence on this issue is hurting”.

Following this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government is ready to debate the issue. “We want peace in Kashmir… and people of Kashmir have repeatedly defeated powers that have tried to disrupt peace. We are ready to debate on the issue,” Naqvi said.



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