JEHANGIR ALI | 4 SEPTEMBER, 2016
All Party Delegation Arrives in Srinagar Without Agenda, Breaks No Ground
SRINAGAR: The All-Party Delegation headed by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh met the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and the state's opposition parties here even as violent clashes in parts of the valley today left dozens injured.
The delegation was welcomed in the restive valley by deserted roads patrolled by police and paramilitary forces armed with automatic weapons as it made its way from the Srinagar airport to the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of Dal Lake here where the meeting took place.
Sources privy to the meeting said Dr Haseeb Drabu made a presentation on behalf of the state government to the delegation about the steps that should be taken for resolving the crisis. "Some of the initiatives that the state government has sought immediately include banning the use of pellet guns and starting the process of removal of AFSPA," sources said.
The Opposition led by the former chief minister Omar Abdullah urged the delegation that New Delhi should start a process of political engagement with the Hurriyat. After the meeting was over, Omar trained guns at Mehbooba, blaming her for the prevailing crisis.
"She (Mehbooba) should decide whether she wants to be the chief minister or the leader of the Opposition. The present agitation can neither be crushed nor tired out. There has to be a roadmap but I am not very enthusiastic about the outcome of today's meeting," Omar told reporters outside SKICC.
Sources said the delegation members are planning to meet the victims of the prevailing situation admitted at the SMHS hospital in Srinagar and civil society members. There may also be a meeting of some members of the delegation with the moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who is presently lying in Chesmashahi sub-jail.
The high profile visit of parliamentarians, which include the Congress party's leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been shadowed by the decision of the Hurriyat Conference as well as the prominent trade bodies to boycott the visit.
"One fails to understand what hope to attach with a delegation which has neither spelled out its mandate for any engagement on a clear agenda. People know that it is the same parliament which has given unfettered powers to their occupying force to use violence to hold Jammu and Kashmir forcibly with India against all norms of civilised behaviour and international law resulting in death, destruction, collective punishments and humiliation," the Hurriyat said in a statement today.
Fearing protests and escalation in violence, authorities had imposed a strict curfew in parts of the valley ahead of the visit of the delegation. However, clashes broke out in parts of south Kashmir's Shopian where protesters torched a government office after forces foiled a freedom rally in Pinjura village.
According to locals, hundreds of police and paramilitary forces allegedly attacked the rally with batons, teargas and pellets, leaving over 100 protesters wounded. Of the injured, 12 have been referred to Srinagar in a critical state, officials said.
At many places along the feeder and arterial road network connecting the capital city with the rest of the valley, multiple checkpoints have been set up where commuters are frisked and their curfew passes checked before allowing them to proceed.
Meanwhile, yesterday, forces killed a 20-year-old youth in Vesu area of Qazigund in Anantnag district while more than 200 protestors sustained pellet and tear gas shell injuries during the day across the valley.
Basit Ahmad, a resident of Qazigund was shot when security forces opened fire to disperse a pro-freedom demonstration, leaving dozens injured in the confrontation. Nasir was declared dead at the hospital where he was brought for treatment, his family said.
The fresh killing has taken the toll of deceased civilians in the ongoing civil uprising to 73 with more than 7000, including security personnel, wounded in clashes that swept the valley following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July.