NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with an impatient Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti sitting by his side at a press conference gave three assurances after his two day visit. One, that the pellet gun will be replaced with another “non-lethal weapon” a month earlier than scheduled; two, that he had finally directed the CM to make preparations for an all party visit to the state and three, he had told the security forces to exercise utmost restraint and had been told that they were doing precisely this.

The other points made by Singh included:

- Can’t we bring Kashmir out of this violence;

- Appeal to all brothers and sisters living in Kashmir, dont play with the future of the youth;

- Young people should have computers, books, pens in hand….who are those who allow them to pick up stones;

- We want to link the future of the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to the youth of India;

- I want to appeal to Kashmiris, whoever is trying to create these conditions, identify them;

- Make the youth who have picked up stones understand that their future cannot be separate from India’s future;

- We cannot make India’s future if we do not make Kashmir’s future;

There was predictably little in the press interaction that can soothe sentiments in the Valley that remains charged with curfew, violence, deaths and injuries. The government seems to have decided not to open talks with the separatists, and without this it is unlikely that much headway will be made towards bringing down the heat that has young people out on the roads almost everyday, despite the curfew and the restrictions. Those who have been visiting the Valley since the past few days point out that they have never seen such anger, and the youth masses are not willing to back down at this moment.

Extraordinary measures are required, but judging from the press interaction today both the central and the state governments have little to offer in terms of a dialogue. With whom, remains the question with New Delhi reluctant to speak to those outside the mainstream. Efforts by the Opposition in both the centre and the state, with the National Conference leading a delegation to the President and the Prime Minister recently, have succeeded in sending Singh to the Valley twice in one month. But whether these visits will result in an inclusive dialogue remains to be seen. As even the Army has said, the imperative need is for a dialogue with all sections, including the separatists.

The Citizen asked Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq whether it was true that the separatists had become rather irrelevant to the protest, in that the Hurriyat was following and not driving the protests. He did not deny this in so many words and said that it should be understood that the Hurriyat was a “sentiment” and needed to be addressed. He said that the Hurriyat leaders would have liked to meet opposition leaders, intellectuals, and others to bring peace to the streets of Kashmir, but “the atmosphere is now so hostile that these interactions have become impossible.”

The press conference, while not particularly significant as the Home Minister basically repeated what he has said before, did reveal a new side of CM Mehbooba Mufti. An angry side. A non-reconciliatory side. So angry that she cut short a press conference with Minister Rajnath Singh even while he was seated, and clearly willing to answer more questions. So angry that she stood up even as she was answering a question from a Kashmiri journalist wanting to know why she had swapped roles with Omar Abdullah, and gestured an end to the press meet.

So non conciliatory that she continued to insist that only five percent of the Kashmiris, who she incidentally represents, were involved in the protests. And that 95% were sitting at home. A bit of a delusion according to many academics and journalists The Citizen spoke to, a response that was placed on the record by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association in a statement where it asked, that if “Mehbooba Mufti thinks that 5 percent of the population has held 95 percent hostage, then the deployment of more than 13 companies of BSF has not only exposed her but also those who went to Delhi to meet the PM. They have further elevated the misery of the people as they have brought back BSF with them.”

The lawyers also asked the government to then explain that if only 5% Kashmiris were involved, “why Kashmir is closed for the last 46 days. Why curfew and other restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the people? Why nothing is working in Kashmir today? Why all the wings which constitute “State” are nonfunctional? Why more than three hundred thousand Govt. employees are not attending their duties? Why advocates and pleaders are not attending the courts? Why are schools closed? Why are not teachers attending the schools and teaching the children?”

Journalists at the press meet also seemed to be in no mood to let the Chief Minister off the hook. In what was really her first consequential meeting with the media she was asked several tough questions. One of these was about her swapping roles with former CM Omar Abdullah, a reference to how in 2010 she had attacked him for not responding to the protests and the aspirations of the youth. “"Don't mix or compare the two situations. In 2010 there was a fake encounter. Today three militants were killed, how is the government to be blamed,” she said. And finally while standing up in possible agitation to answer a question, signalled an end to the meet even as the Union Home Minister was sitting and clearly willing to continue taking questions.

What has happened to Mehbooba? Is a refrain heard from several Opposition leaders in New Delhi who had dealt with her in the past and claim not to recognise her in the CM avataar. Shaking his head in sheer disbelief a senior Rajya Sabha MP said, that he had never thought that Mehbooba Mufti would play the role of a non-responsive Chief Minister “so well.” The anger evident at the press meet, came from a visibly uncomfortable Mehbooba Mufti who did not like being placed on the defensive by the scribes.

“Had a kid gone to buy a toffee from an army camp? A 15-year-old boy who attacked a police station (in south Kashmir), had he gone to buy milk? Don't compare the two," she said. And added, "stone-throwing and protesting is not a solution." It is not, but then what is? Governments are in place to find a workable solution to at least the immediate problem.