The Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Valley fourteen days after the outbreak of mass fury following the death of Burhan Muzaffar Wani but he had nothing to offer to Valley except some good noises. Singh said nothing that would constitute a substantive policy announcement to address the sources of the current trouble in the state. The home minister reiterated the longstanding Government stand that no third party involvement was needed to address the situation in Kashmir. But he had nothing to say about talks with Pakistan, blaming the neighbouring country instead for instigating our youth to pick up arms. He evaded questions about the revocation of AFSPA or tackling the current unrest in the state politically. To the questions as to whether centre had any political response to the crisis up its sleeve, the home minister said the government will take every necessary step to normalize the situation in the state.
Singh, however, made some good noises, saying the centre didnt want a relationship with J&K based only on needs. We want an emotional bond with the state, he said adding he had come to visit the state because the centre felt the pain of the people. The Home Minister added he was saddened by the loss of the lives of innocent people and once again called on the security forces to exercise the maximum restraint. But he refused to blame them for the excesses. It were these very security personnel who when Kashmir was flooded in 2014 put their lives on line to save the people. We should not forget that.
One positive announcement that he made was the formation of an expert committee which will review the use of the pellet guns in the state and look for an alternative snon-lethal weapon for the crowd control. However, the decision to set up the committee was taken before Singh’s visit to the state. So there was nothing new in what Singh had to say on this. But this is still the only take-away from Singhs visit. The pellet guns have wrought havoc in Valley by blinding more than a hundred youth.
Unlike 2010, when centre had rushed the all party delegation and later appointed a threemember panel of interlocutors to tide over the then runaway ferment, Singh raised no such hopes, repeating that all necessary steps will be taken to usher in peace in the Valley. The visit has therefore made little difference to the anger in the state. And this is what prompted the well-known trading and the civil society organizations to boycott Singh, arguing similar meetings in the past had been of no utility and were not built upon to pursue an honest and meaningful engagement with the state. The government had to fly in the President of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Srinagar for the meeting with home minister. Besides, a delegation of the unknown Imams, some of them ferried in ambulances also had an interaction with Singh. The visit has thus come as a huge disappointment in Valley as it has only conveyed that the centre wants to continue with the security response to the current crisis, expecting it to blow over in near future. And this is not a helpful policy at a time when Kashmir gives all the indications of being headed for another round of militancy.
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