New Delhi: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday squarely blamed Pakistan and separatists for fuelling the ongoing trouble in the Kashmir Valley that has been seething with public anger and violent anti-government protests for the past 50 days.
Mehbooba was on a whirlwind visit to Delhi for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the situation in Kashmir where at least 71 people have been killed since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said she exchanged views with the Prime Minister on finding a way out of the “Kashmir imbroglio”.
“The Prime Minister is very concerned and is as hurt as we are with the deaths in Kashmir,” she said and blamed Pakistan for inciting the violence and provoking youth to attack security forces and police stations.
“I want to tell Pakistan, if it has any sympathy for Kashmiris, it should stop provoking (Kashmiris) to attack police stations,” she said.
This is for the first time that Mehbooba has directly blamed Islamabad for causing trouble in Kashmir. Previously when in opposition, she was known to have a soft spot for Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists.
She said Pakistan lost a “golden chance” to resolve the Kashmir problem when Modi went to Lahore in December last and later when Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Islamabad for a Saarc conference early this month.
“It is time for Pakistan to respond (to India) if it wants peace in Kashmir,” said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader who heads a coalition in the state with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its ruling ally.
The meeting was her first with Modi since the unrest began.
Saturday marked the 50th day of curfew and shutdown that have crippled normal life across Kashmir. More violence erupted in the state after the body of a man, allegedly chased by security forces during a stone-pelting protest a day ago, was fished out of the Jhelum River.
Education institutions, shops, private offices and other businesses have not opened in seven weeks. Some government offices have been functioning but with thin attendance.
Mehbooba said she pitched for talks “with all stakeholders” to end the current impasse. She, however, asked separatist leaders to shun violence “if they want to talk”.
“Talks should be held with those who want peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. For others, it is a business. Those who provoke people and cause bloodshed don’t want talks,” she said.
The Chief Minister said “Indian democracy has enough space to accommodate the dreams of Kashmiris”, adding the resolution of the Kashmir issue was only possible during Modi’s government.
“If during his time, the situation doesn’t change then it will never change. I have hopes that when the Prime Minister says there will be a dialogue with everyone, then it would happen.”
Mehbooba made a passionate appeal to Kashmiri protesters for peace and sought “one chance” to solve the Kashmir issue.
“These are the same youth and kids who would accompany me in my public rallies. Give me a chance I will get it (Kashmir issue) solved. It has been only two months since I have taken over the government and ‘itna bada bawaal aagaya’ (such a big problem erupted),” the first woman Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said, referring to the turmoil.
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