Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday addressed the media in a joint press conference in Srinagar and said that all parties wanted peace in the state.
"Almost all political parties have sent their delegations to Kashmir," said Singh, as he stressed on the fact all political parties and people in India wanted peace in Kashmir where the death toll in the unrest, which began on 8 July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has now reached 66.
"I talked to over 300 people in two days," said the home minister. "Whether a Kashmiri youth or a security force personnel is killed, we are all pained by it," he further said.
"I want to appeal to all the people of Kashmir to not interfere with the future of the children of the state," he said. "Who are the people who hand stones to the children of Kashmir?" He also said that he wanted to see "books in the hands of the children of Kashmir, not stones."
"We cannot separate the future of Kashmir with the future of India. Without the future of Kashmir, the future of India cannot exist," Singh said.
He also said that the government wants to bring an all-party delegation to the state. "We want to bring an all-party delegation to Kashmir which talks to the people here," he said.
The home minister also said that there should be an alternative to pellet guns. "It was believed in 2010 that the pellet gun is a non-lethal weapon that does not do much damage. But today, we feel that there should be some alternative to pellet guns," he said, adding that "the expert committee report will be out soon and we will find an alternative to pellet guns."
Mehbooba stressed on the fact that it was only five percent of the population in the state that was creating trouble. "Let us differentiate between those people who want dialogue with the government and those who want to exploit children," she said.
She also stressed on the fact that 95 percent of the people in the Valley wanted peace. "There should be legal proceedings against the five percent of people in Kashmir who are creating trouble," Mufti said. "The situation in the Valley has worsened... We are all worried because of the 48 days of turmoil," she added.
Singh also said that the government had decided to appoint a nodal officer to listen to the problems of Kashmiris in India. "MHA is going to appoint a nodal officer so that Kashmiris can address their grievances from anywhere in the country," he said. He added that the government had asked the security forces in the state to keep a check on the force used and the personnel were, in fact, exercising restraint.
Singh also stressed on the fact that he was willing to talk to those who believed in 'Kashmiriyat, insaniyat and jamhooriyat' (Kashmir’s pluralist ethos, humanity and democracy).
The press conference took a dramatic turn towards the end when Mufti became agitated as she explained the difference between the violence which took place in the state in 2010 and 2016.
She said that because of allegations of fake encounters and rape and killings in 2010, there was a strong reason behind the violence in 2010.
"But today, there was an encounter in which three militants were killed. What was the government's fault in that?" said a defiant Mufti.
"Please do not mix these issues," the Chief Minister angrily said.
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"Five percent people in Kashmir use children as shields and attack camps of security forces," she also said, stressing on the fact that action needs to be taken against them.
As a clearly agitated Mehbooba Mufti finished talking, the press conference came to an end and she told reporters, "Chaliye, chai pi lijiye (Come, have some tea)."
First Published On : Aug 25, 2016 13:25 IST