Rajnath Singh in Kashmir, driven through tense Srinagar

Srinagar, Aug 24 (IANS) Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived here on Wednesday morning and chose to be driven through a tense Srinagar amid heightened security and strict curfew almost all over the Kashmir Valley.

The Home Minister’s two-day valley visit is his second in a month to review security and hold talks with civil society members and politicians in Jammu and Kashmir.

Before leaving from Delhi, Rajnath Singh tweeted that he “shall interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders” during his stay at the Nehru Guest House on the Zabarwan Hills near the eastern shore of Dal Lake in Srinagar.

The minister extended an open invitation to all “who believe in Kashmiriyat, insaniyat and jamhooriyat”, expressing his willingness to talk with those who have faith in the spirit of Kashmir, humaneness and democracy.

Rajnath Singh, accompanied by Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and other senior officials, flew in by a special plane into the technical area of the Srinagar international airport around 11.35 a.m.

From there, his cavalcade started for the Nehru Guest House for a journey of about 12 km through uptown areas of Srinagar “to get a feel of the ground situation”, according to an official.

Officials said he chose not to take a helicopter ride to the Nehru helipad near the historic guest house where the government held talks with the moderate faction of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen militant group in August 2000.

The talks, however, broke down after the leader of the faction, Majeed Dar, was gunned down by militants.

The Home Minister is scheduled to review the security in the Kashmir Valley which has been under curfew since July 9 — a day after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani that triggered weeks of unrest. At least 68 people have been killed in the violence in Kashmir.

Rajnath Singh’s visit follows a series of meetings the opposition leaders of the state had in New Delhi.

He is also expected to meet Governor N.N. Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her cabinet colleagues. He will hold meetings with officials of civil, state and central intelligence and security agencies.

The visit comes a day after daytime curfew was removed from Srinagar amid a relative calm in parts of the city. It was for the first time in more than five weeks that the restrictions were eased in the uptown areas. But the curfew was back in place on Wednesday.



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