Oppn in RS demands start of political process in Kashmir

Modi-rajya-sabha1-pti (File) Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Urging the Prime Minister to break his silence on the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, opposition in Rajya Sabha led by Congress on Monday demanded initiation of a political process to defuse the crisis that has led to an unprecedented 30 days of curfew across the Valley.

The opposition parties also demanded stopping the use of pellet guns on protesters, even as one member demanded withdrawal of AFSPA from the Kashmir Valley and withdrawal of the dominating presence of army from civilian areas.

Raising the issue in Zero Hour after his notice under rule 267 seeking suspension of business to discuss the issue was disallowed, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said no state in independent India has seen 30 days of continuous curfew that has paralysed the administration, shut down educational institutions and led to near zero attendance in government offices.

"In such circumstances, we want to awaken the government ... We feel the government and the prime minister are watching the situation deteriorate like a silent spectator," he said, adding he wanted to know why Modi has not spoken on the grave situation in Kashmir so far.

"Hindustan ka Taj jal raha hai, par uski garmi Delhi tak nahi pahunchti (India's crown is burning but the heat hasn't yet reached Delhi)," Azad said.

Over 8,000 people, including security personnel, have been injured while 410 eye surgeries and 1,650 other surgeries are reported to have been done because of the use of pellet guns on protesters, he said.

Observing that 1,018 incidents have been reported, he said over 1,000 youth are in prison. "Please do not consider this a law and order issue," Azad told the government.

Citing social media comments on Modi not making any statement on the Kashmir unrest, he said people are eager to listen to his views on the situation.

He asked the prime minister to call an all-party meeting where political leaders can offer solutions and express their sympathy with the people of Kashmir. This should be followed up with an all-party delegation visiting Kashmir to assuage the feeling, the senior Congress leader added.

Expressing anguish and pain at the continuous 30-day curfew, Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) said there was nothing working in the Valley except armed forces.

"More than 1,000 incidents of firing have happened. More than 8,000 are injured and 60 dead," he said describing the use of pellet guns as "inhuman" and "criminal".

Stating that even Israel does not use pellet guns against Palestinians, he said the situation cannot be solved by law and order machinery.

"Our remaining silent is deepening the alienation of the Kashmiris," Yechury said, adding "we have heard the silence of the prime minister (on Kashmir). His silence is more eloquent than words."

The Prime Minister's silence is "sending a message that this government does not care", he said, adding that an all-party delegation's visit in 2010, when 120 people had died in stone pelting and retaliatory action by police, had helped assuage the feelings of the people there.

"Why can't we do this now," he asked and demanded that the prime minister should respond and start the process of dialogue.

Describing the situation in Kashmir as alarming, D. Raja of the CPI said to de-escalate the situation, the use of pellet guns should be stopped forthwith and AFSPA repealed.

Also, the "dreaded midnight knocks" should be stopped as well, and the dominating presence of the army in civilian areas should be reduced and security forces withdrawn, he said.

"Government should initiate political process to win the minds of the people, win confidence of people," Raja said.

Samajwadi Party's Neeraj Shekhar said 60 youths have been killed in Kashmir, yet there was no statement from the home minister and prime minister on the issue.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, he said, went to Kashmir but could not meet everyone. He should have taken senior leaders of political parties on his visit.

Sharad Yadav of JD(U) said the silence of government on the issue was painful and demanded prime minister make a statement.

"Is issue par bhayanak shanti hai (there is dreadful peace on the issue)," he said.

Stating that the government is committed to peace and tranquility in Kashmir, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there should be no doubts about the government's commitment towards the state.

The government, he said, was open to discussion on the Kashmir situation and it can be scheduled on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said since the House wants the discussion today, "if possible, do it tomorrow".

"Government has admitted readiness for discussion," he told the members.

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