New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of Union Ministers during which she sought a "time-bound inquiry" into the Handwara firing and opening up of more trading points along the Line of Control.
During her packed itinerary, Mehbooba, the first woman Chief Minister of the state, called on President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cabinet ministers. She also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday night.
She began her day with a meeting with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar during which she requested for a "time-bound inquiry" into the Handwara firing, in which three people have died so far. One more person was killed in violent clashes on Wednesday during protests against the Handwara incident.
Mehbooba called on the Prime Minister at his office on Wednesday afternoon and pitched for inclusion of Srinagar and Jammu among smart cities besides allocation of an additional over four lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains to the state.
Mehbooba and Modi discussed the overall political and developmental scenario of Jammu and Kashmir, a state government spokesperson said in a statement. "The Prime Minister assured the Chief Minister of Centre's full support in the holistic development of the state," the statement said.
Earlier, during his meeting with Parikar, Mehbooba, who is on her maiden visit here after assuming office on 4 April, Mehbooba said a time bound probe into the incident will act as a deterrent against such incidents in future.
Describing the firing incident as "very unfortunate", the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said, "I spoke to the Defence Minister. He assured me that a probe will be initiated and the culprits will be punished.
"At the same time the family (of the victims) will be compensated. Such incidents should not happen in the future," she said after meeting Parrikar.
Three people, including a budding cricketer, and a woman were killed in Handwara when security forces opened fire to quell stone-pelting protesters who targeted their bunker.
The incident took place after reports surfaced that some army personnel had allegedly molested a girl returning from school. However, police investigations have so far indicated that no such incident had taken place and it was an attempt by some trouble makers to create disturbance so an army bunker located at Handwara town was removed, official sources said.
The Chief Minister also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during which she discussed measures required for broadening the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel in the state.
"She said cross-LoC trade and travel was close to the heart of her father and former Chief Minister late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who often described it as the biggest CBM between India and Pakistan," a state government spokesman said.
Mehbooba proposed opening of new routes across the LoC for better connectivity, which she said will take people-to-people contact beyond the ritual of meetings between divided families.
She also requested for increasing the Haj quota for the state in view the large number of applications received for the annual pilgrimage this year.
Mehbooba also took up the issue of lowering the tariff on Srinagar Embarkation Point for Haj flights which is higher in comparison to other such points in the country, the spokesman said.
"The External Affairs Minister assured early positive action on the issues raised by the Chief Minister," the spokesman said.
During her meetings with various ministers, the Chief Minister sought to dispel reports about any animosity between local and outstation students at NIT and said her government will ensure security of all students studying in the Valley.
"They are our children. These are our children. It is our job to provide them security. I am confident they will come back, Kashmir is their home," Mehbooba said after meeting Urban Development Minister Venkiah Naidu.
"These students have been living there for years. We can't separate people over an incident. I am hopeful they will come back," she said.
Naidu said during the talks, the issue of National institute of Technology (NIT) students also cropped up and the Chief Minister said every step will be taken to ensure that students are provided safety and security.
Naidu also said that the issue of NIT was not between local and outstation students. "We should try to assure students from other parts of nation studying in Srinagar that they will have a peaceful stay," he said.
NIT Srinagar has been at the centre of a controversy since 1 April when clashes broke out between outstation and local students following India's defeat to West Indies in the World T20 Cup tournament.
The situation worsened on April 5 when outstation students tried to take out a march outside the campus but were stopped by the police, leading to violence.
Meanwhile, the Centre has appointed Finance Secretary Ratan Wattal as the liaison officer who will coordinate with the state government to ensure that the flow of funds is fast-tracked for smooth implementation of Rs 80,000 crore Prime Minister's Development Package.
"The Finance Minister assured the Chief Minister of early action in the matter," the spokesman said. He will maintain close liaison with state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, so that the flow of funds to the state is fast-tracked, the spokesman said.
In her meeting with Jaitley, Mehbooba had sought creation of a separate window for Prime Minister's Development Package to speed up flow of resources to the state.
"She also requested early release this month of Rs 880 crore for interest subvention, Rs 2,000 crore for damaged infrastructure approved by NITI Aayog and another Rs 2,000 crore for displaced persons in Jammu so that disbursement of compensation can commence," an official statement said.