NEW DELHI: Sharing the pain of the suffering Kashmiris, Parliament today unanimously appealed to people of the valley to restore peace and harmony even as the government expressed readiness to hold talks with moderate groups and others and decided to call an all-party meet on Friday.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh declared that there is no question of handing over Kashmir to the Army, quashing rumours that are being spread "deliberately". He also promised to consider sending an all-party delegation to Kashmir, responding to demands made in the Rajya Sabha which discussed the "prevailing situation" in the valley for over six hours.
Singh, while asserting that he was speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said an all-party meeting will be held on Friday on the Kashmir situation. It will be attended by the Prime Minister. While replying to the debate during which demands were made for stopping the use of pellet guns, Singh said instructions have been issued to security forces to exercise "maximum restraint" but there will be no compromise on national security and pro-Pakistan slogans on the Indian soil will not be tolerated in any case.
With regard to dialogue with Pakistan, he said any talks on Kashmir will be about the territories under the occupation of that country. "No power on earth can snatch Kashmir from us," he declared, while referring to letter of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the UN seeking 'plebiscite' in Kashmir.
At the end of the debate in which 29 members from across the political spectrum spoke, the Rajya Sabha unanimously adopted a resolution, saying: "This House expresses its serious concern over the prolonged turbulence, violence and curfew in the Kashmir valley."
It added that the House "conveys its deep sense of anguish and concern over the loss of lives and critical injuries caused by the deteriorating situation." The resolution asserted that the House "is of the firm and considered view that while there cannot be any compromise on national security, it is equally an imperative that urgent steps are taken to restore order and peace for the alleviation of the sufferings of the people."
The House "earnestly appeals to all sections of the society in Jammu and Kashmir, to work for the early restoration of normalcy and harmony and unanimously resolves to restore the confidence among the people in general and youth in particular," it said.
Responding to demands for initiating a political process in Kashmir, the Home Minister said the government is ready to have talks with mainstream parties, moderates and others. "We are ready. I will ask the Chief Minister where to start the process and with whom to talk, on which issues," he added.
"We will also talk, you also talk, we all are ready to talk. That is why there is talk of sending all-party delegation.. Once the ground work is done, then we will talk to the Chief Minister that if the delegation has to go, whom all to meet there," he said. Singh referred to the remarks made by the Prime Minister about 'Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat' yesterday while invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee and said the government is walking on that path.
"We have decided that on August 12, we will hold an all-party meeting at 12 pm soon after the Parliament session ends and the Prime Minister will be present," he said. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad referred to the word going round in Kashmir that the valley will be handed over to the Army after the completion of Amarnath Yatra next week.
"We can't even think of it. These rumours are being spread deliberately. Nowadays, anything can be said on social media," Rajnath Singh replied. "Whatever is happening in Kashmir is not because of people of Kashmir. Whatever is happening is Pakistan-sponsored," he said.
He lauded Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, saying she and her government had done a good job in this difficult situation. In this regard, he gave details about how much ration, milk and other daily essentials have been distributed in Kashmir even during the curfew. He insisted that only some parts of Kashmir, and not the entire valley, are under curfew and that in rest of the places, markets are closed due to "fear" owing to strike called by separatists.
"I can't say Kashmris are living normal life but despite all odds, state government is making efforts to minimise their inconvenience," Singh said. He blamed "vested interests" for the trouble and said the state government was trying to normalise the situation.
Responding to demands for stopping use of pellet guns which have caused most injuries, the Home Minister said such weapons were not used for the first time but earlier also. "I am not justifying its use by arguing that these were used earlier also," he said, adding he had reviewed the situation to explore other options. A committee has been formed in this regard which has been asked to give report in two months, he added.
He said instructions have been issued to the security forces to exercise "maximum restraint" and added that because of this, 4515 security personnel have suffered injuries compared to 3356 civilians. Giving details of the injuries caused during the unrest that started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, he said 100 were still hospitalised, 51 with eye injuries, while 2564 have been discharged.
"The people of Kashmir should realise that our hearts beat equally for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (three regions of the state), as any other part of the country," the Home Minister said. Responding to questions by some members as to why the Prime Minister had spoken outside and not in Parliament, Singh said he "has made me the Home Minister and I have rights. He has confidence in me and whatever I say reflects the same sentiments as his."
Contending that he keeps discussing the Kashmir issue with Modi, Singh said, "one can feel his (PM's) sentiments by what he said yesterday (in Madhya Pradesh)." Suggesting the gravity of the situation, Singh said 100 ambulances were damaged due to stone-pelting, despite which 400 ambulances are still working.
The Home Minister said even during curfew, hospitals have treated five lakh normal patients in OPDs and 8,000 surgeries were conducted. Some of the injured were brought to AIIMS in Delhi and another hospital in Mumbai. Rejecting the notion that the trouble in Kashmir is because of unemployment, Singh noted that at times, flags of ISIS and pro-Pakistan slogans are raised in Kashmir.
He condemned ISIS, saying it is anti-Muslim and has killed those believing in Islam. "I want to tell people of Kashmir that Islam does not allow killings. Those who raise such ISIS flags are trying to defame Islam," he said. "Pro-Pakistan slogans will not be tolerated on this soil... Raising slogans against the country is not right. I want to appeal to people to stop those indulging in such things," Singh said.
He said somebody may praise Islam, Hinduism or any religion but raising slogans praising Pakistan won't be allowed. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants are trying to threaten the families of security forces, the Home Minister said. Talking about "effective" steps taken by the state government, he said these include recruitment in central paramilitary forces and 10,000 as Special Police Officers.
Besides two AIIMS and IIM are being set up and scholarships are being distributed. With regard to security of Kashmiris studying in other parts of the country, the Home Minister said he will write to all state CMs and tell them, if necessary, develop a system of building relationship between locals and Kashmiris.
Singh praised all parties for speaking in unison on Kashmir during the "high quality" discussion, saying it reflects the spirit of healthy democracy. "In 20 years, I have seen for the first time such a lengthy discussion on Kashmir... We should be proud of such a Parliament," he said.