PM stresses Kashmir dialogue, but solution ‘within Constitution’ (Roundup)

New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told Jammu and Kashmir opposition parties that “there has to be a dialogue” to end the weeks-long unrest in the valley but any solution to the problem will be “within the Constitution” of India.

The Prime Minister’s statement indicates that the government may be considering some political initiative on Kashmir where the over-five weeks long agitation has left nearly 70 people dead in clashes between pro-freedom protesters and security forces. Opposition parties in Delhi as well as in Kashmir have been pressing for political solution to the unrest.

At a meeting with a delegation of opposition parties from the state, Modi expressed “deep concern and pain” over the violence in Kashmir and the loss of lives in the unrest.

“Those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation. Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us,” Modi said, according to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“There has to be a dialogue and we need to find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem within the framework of the Constitution,” he said.

Leaders of Kashmir opposition parties led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah urged the Prime Minister for a political initiative to deal with the unrest, complaining that the state and central governments had shown no political will to respond to the crisis — the deadliest Kashmir has seen in six years.

Abdullah said they told Modi that Kashmir was not an issue related to the development or the lack of it. “It is a political issue and we told the Prime Minister that we need a political approach to deal with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” Abdullah told IANS.

“If we don’t find a political solution to this, then every time we’ll repeat the same mistake.”

The National Conference working president said the they handed over a memorandum to the Prime Minister warning him against the “tried and tested formulations of dealing with the issue in Kashmir administratively rather than politically”.

“We are of the firm opinion that the central government should waste no further time in initiating a credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to address the unrest.”

State Congress chief G.A. Mir said the meeting with Modi may augur well for Kashmir. “The Prime Minister agreed that development isn’t the only way out, indicating a thinking that a dialogue over Kashmir is being considered. We are hopeful that it will happen soon.”

But Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said the government had an incoherent policy over Kashmir with Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley “not on the same page”. He was referring to Jaitley’s remarks in Jammu on Sunday, ruling out any dialogue and warning that those indulging in violence would be dealt sternly.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with the Kashmir politicians comes as the valley remained under strict curfew for the 45th day in a row. The valley has been on the boil amid violent clashes between stone-throwing protesters and security forces since the July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani.

The clashes have also left thousands of people, including children, injured, mostly in pellet firing. Hundreds of the injured have partially or fully lost their eyesight after being hit by pellet guns — a dangerous mob control weapons used in Kashmir.

The Kashmir delegation sought an “immediate ban on pellet guns” and also urged the Prime Minister “to advice relevant quarters against the policy of mass harassment, raids, and arrests” in the valley.

“This has worsened an already volatile situation and also goes against the values and principles of democracy.”

The opposition leaders, including Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Yusuf Tarigami, have been in the capital for the last three days.

They met President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, seeking their intervention in bringing about an end to the unrest that has crippled life in the restive valley.

–IANS

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