NEW DELHI: Following persistent demand by a united Opposition, the government today agreed to have a debate on the prevailing Kashmir situation in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow with Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking support from all sections to resolve the "complicated" issue.
Opposition leaders, including those of Congress, CPI(M), SP and JD(U), also expressed serious concern over the continuance of curfew for over a month in the Kashmir valley. They sought a stop to the use of pellet guns on protesters, sending of a parliamentary delegation there to talk to all sections of people and an all-party meeting.
As they raised the issue during the Zero Hour, Home Minister Rajnath Singh walked in to the House and promptly concurred with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad for a discussion on the Kashmir situation tomorrow.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there was no problem as both sides have agreed to discuss the matter. Singh also admitted that the situation was "serious" and sought the support of all sides in resolving the "complicated problem".
Earlier, Azad referred to the situation and said "curfew has entered 31st day in Kashmir today. We don't want to accuse the government on the situation, rather we are ready to help control the situation there. Innocent women and children are dying. Your security forces are dying. Why are you shying away from debate."
"Why are we witnessing a 'tamasha'," he said and added that no doubt there was bad situation in Kashmir in 2008 and 2010 when he and Omar Abdullah headed the government there. "Convene an all party meet in Delhi in a day or two and send a delegation to Kashmir" as the whole nation is watching, Azad said.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) asked "why are you not sending a delegation to Kashmir...Send it on August 12 itself and for heaven's sake, make an announcement to stop the use of pellet guns." He also stressed the need for "starting a political process" to end the turmoil in Kashmir.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) sought to know the government's strategy on Kashmir saying whole country was concerned. He also demanded immediate stopping of the use of pellet guns.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the "people can question us as to what we did. We want a delegation to be sent to Kashmir as a part of the country is burning and it is impacting the entire nation." BSP Supremo Mayawati also demanded an immediate debate on it and attacked the Prime Minister for his statement on Dalits as "mischievious" and "driven by politics".
Mayawati said "there have been atrocities on Dalits for the last two years. When Parliament session was on, the Prime Minister gave his comments on the issue outside the House. It would have been better if he says this in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. He did not make his statement here and the statement outside shows that his Dalit policy is mischievous and driven by politics."
She also demanded a debate on Kashmir in the House in presence of the Prime Minister. Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool) said the situation in Kashmir has worsened due to mismanagement by the government and it is still alarming.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, said we have asked the Home Minister and debate can be held tomorrow as the government too wants to bring Kashmir developments to the mainstream.
Kurien said, "I concede that it is a very important issue ...I am directing Naqvi to contact the Home Minister and convey his availability today or tomorrow", to which Naqvi said that Home Minister has already consented for tomorrow. Naresh Agarwal (SP) sought to know as to why it was not taken up despite the government agreeing to it yesterday.
Amid the din, Yechury said every day's delay on Kashmir was resulting in loss of lives of innocent youths there.
When CPI(M) member T K Rangarajan said the debate could be initiated in the presence of other ministers, the Deputy Chairman said he too wanted a debate on the issue but felt that Home Minister should be present. "What is the point in Defence Minister or Civil Aviation minister giving a reply on the issue," he asked.
At this juncture, Azad agreed that there would many things which only the Prime Minister and Home Minister would be privy to. The "follow-up" action after the discussion would also have to be taken by the Home Minister, Azad said and suggested that rather than have the Zero Hour and Question Hour, the Kashmir situation should be discussed from 11 am onwards.
The Home Minister also said that he believed that the J&K situation is "serious" and said that he would not claimed that he can resolve this "complex problem" alone. "We will resolve it through everyone's cooperation," he told the Upper House. Earlier, Azad complimented various parties raising the issue, for sharing the pain which Kashmir was going through.
"Why is the government scared of a debate," he asked. When Congress member Satyavrat Chaturvedi said that Kurein himself had said the debate would take place today, the Deputy Chairman said it was a miscommunication. "This is what happens when people like me speak Hindi," Kurien said.
PDP MP Mir Mohammed Fayaz however raised questions about the utility of sending a parliamentary delegation to Kashmir. "Who will meet them," he asked. He said there is a roadmap for development of Kashmir and if that is discussed, he would welcome it.
As some Congress members interrupted him, he said "it is because of you that people of the state are suffering."