Under Pressure, Modi Calls for Lasting Solution To Kashmir

NEW DELHI: India´s Prime Minister Narendra Modi came under pressure on Monday over weeks of deadly violence in  Kashmir, with the region´s opposition leaders calling on him to rein in troops and police.

Modi stressed the need for dialogue to end the unrest in the disputed Himalayan region, after meeting the opposition leaders in New Delhi at their request.

"He (Modi) emphasised on the need for all political parties to work together to find a solution to the problems in the state of Jammu and Kashmir," his office said in a statement after talks with the delegation.

In a bid to reach out to the people of Kashmir, Modi expressed his “deep concern about and pain over the situation there'' and asked all political parties to work together to find a “permanent and lasting” solution within the framework of the Constitution to the problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

Making an appeal for restoration of normality in the Valley, where the unrest entered the 45th day, Modi emphasised that there has to be dialogue.

Much of Kashmir has been under curfew since protests broke out over the death on July 8 of a popular young separatist leader in a gunfight with security forces.

At least 69 civilians have been killed in clashes between protesters and police and troops and thousands more injured in the worst violence to hit the restive region since 2010.

Opposition delegates led by former Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah singled out security forces´ firing of shotguns to disperse the protesters.

An official statement issued after a 75-minute-long meeting Mr. Modi had with a joint Opposition delegation, led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said the Prime Minister appreciated the “constructive suggestions” made by them during the talks and reiterated his government’s commitment to the welfare of people.

The 20-member delegation, comprising Mr. Abdullah and seven of his National Conference MLAs, Congress legislators led by PCC Chief G.A. Mir and CPI(M) MLA M Y Tarigami, called on the Prime Minister in the morning and made an appeal for a political approach to resolve the crisis in the Valley and to ensure that the “mistakes” of the past are not repeated. They presented a memorandum to him.

The Prime Minister said: “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. Government and the nation stand with the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Mr. Modi expressed his commitment for the development of the State and its people.

Soon after, Mr. Abdullah tweeted, “we welcome the statement of the Hon PM @narendramodi ji and look forward to working together to find a lasting solution to problems of J&K.”

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He also tweeted, saying he is “grateful to @narendramodi ji for taking out the time to receive the delegation from J&K and giving us a patient hearing beyond allotted time.”

The 46-year-old working president of the National Conference told reporters after the meeting that they requested the Prime Minister to find a political solution to the Kashmir issue so that a lasting peace is ensured in the State as well as in the country. Mr. Modi agreed with the delegation that development alone is not an answer to the crisis.

Mr. Abdullah said, “The Prime Minister told us in categorical terms that development alone will not resolve this problem.”He refused to draw any conclusion from that.

“I am not going to put words into the Prime Minister’s mouth nor am I going to draw further meaning from what he said,” Mr. Abdullah said.

“We talked about the same thing that we have been talking with other leaders ever since we arrived in Delhi that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the light of the present crisis, needs to be understood correctly after which a solution is required. We emphasised that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is more of political in nature. Time and again such situations do arise but if we are unable to find a political solution to it, we will be repeating our mistakes again and again,” he said.

The Prime Minister listened to “us with patience and accepted our memorandum," he noted.

The leaders flagged the issue of youths falling victims to continued protests, including a teenager named Irfan, who was killed on Sunday night when a teargas shell hit him on his chest.

“We also implore you to announce an immediate ban on pellet guns and advise relevant quarters against the policy of mass harassment, raids and arrests as this has worsened an already volatile situation in the State and also goes against the values and principles of democracy,” the memorandum submitted to Modi said.

Asked about the statement made by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Jammu on Sunday that those pelting stones at security forces were no “satyagrahis but aggressors”, Mr. Abdullah said, “I do not wish to say anything on this as the Prime Minister told us nothing like this.

“And more importantly, let’s not play politics over Jammu and Kashmir. We will get ample time to play political games later.”

The delegation comprising National Conference leaders Nasir Wani and Davinder Rana — has been camping in the national capital and meeting political leaders from the government and the Opposition.

The delegation started the political initiative on Saturday by meeting President Pranab Mukherjee and submitting a memorandum to him, requesting him to use his office to influence the Centre for initiating a political dialogue with all stakeholders in the State.

On Sunday, the delegation met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and apprised him about the situation in the State.

Many of the young men who have come onto the streets since the rebel´s death are throwing stones at security forces, an increasingly common form of protest in the area.

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