Indian opposition up in arms against Modi on Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: Following a persistent demand by a united opposition, the Indian government on Tuesday agreed to debate the prevailing situation in occupied Kashmir in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday with Home minister Rajnath Singh seeking support from all sections to resolve the complicated issue.

Opposition leaders, including those of Congress, CPI(M), SP and JD(U), also expressed serious concern over the continuing curfew for over a month in the valley, the Indian media reported.

They sought a stop to the use of pellet guns on protesters and sending of a parliamentary delegation there to talk to all sections of people and an all-party meeting.

As they raised the issue during the Zero Hour, Home Minister Rajnath Singh walked into the House and promptly concurred with the Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad for a discussion on the Kashmir situation on Wednesday.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there was no problem, as both sides had agreed to discuss the matter.

Singh also admitted that the situation was serious and sought the support of all sides in resolving the problem.

Earlier, referring to the situation, Azad said: “Curfew has entered 31st day in Kashmir on Tuesday. We don’t want to accuse the government on the situation rather we are ready to help control the situation there. Innocent women and children are dying. Your security forces are dying. Why are you shying away from debate?

“Why are we witnessing a ‘tamasha’,” he said and added that no doubt there was a bad situation in Kashmir in 2008 and 2010 when he and Omar Abdullah headed the government there.

“Convene an all party meet in Delhi in a day or two and send a delegation to Kashmir” as the whole nation is watching, Azad said.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) asked: “Why are you not sending a delegation to Kashmir…Send it on August 21 itself and for heaven’s sake, make an announcement to stop the use of pellet guns.”

He also stressed the need for “starting a political process” to end the turmoil in Kashmir.

Sharad Yadav (JD-U) sought to know the government’s strategy for Kashmir saying the whole country was concerned. He also demanded an immediate end to the use of pellet guns.

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Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said: “People can question us as to what we did. We want a delegation to be sent to Kashmir as a part of the country is burning and it is impacting the entire nation.”

BSP Supremo Mayawati also demanded an immediate debate on it and attacked the prime minister for his statement on Dalits as “mischievious” and “driven by politics”.

Mayawati said: “There have been atrocities on Dalits for the last two years. When parliament session was on, the prime minister gave his comments on the issue outside the House. It would have been better if he had said this in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. He did not make his statement here and the statement outside shows that his Dalit policy is mischievious and driven by politics.”

She also demanded a debate on Kashmir in the House in the presence of the prime minister.

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool) said the situation in Kashmir had worsened due to mismanagement by the government and it was still alarming.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, said they had asked the home minister and debate can be held on Wednesday as the government too wants to bring Kashmir developments to the mainstream.

Kurien said: “I concede that it is a very important issue …I am directing Naqvi to contact the home minister and convey his availability today or tomorrow”, to which Naqvi said the home minister had already consented for on Wednesday.

Naresh Agarwal (SP) sought to know as to why it was not taken up despite the government agreeing to it on Monday.

Amid the din, Yechury said every day’s delay on Kashmir was resulting in loss of lives of innocent youth there.

When CPI(M) member T K Rangarajan said a debate could be initiated in the presence of other ministers, the deputy chairman said he too wanted a debate on the issue but felt that the home minister should be present.

“What is the point in defence minister or civil aviation minister giving a reply on the issue,” he asked.

At this juncture, Azad agreed that there were many things which only the prime minister and home minister would be privy to.

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The “follow-up” action after the discussion would also have to be taken by the home minister, Azad said and suggested that rather than have the Zero Hour and Question Hour, the Kashmir situation should be discussed from 11am onwards.

The home minister also said that he believed that the IOK situation was “serious” and that he would not claim that he can resolve this “complex problem” alone.

“We will resolve it through everyone’s cooperation,” he told the Upper House.

Earlier, Azad complimented various parties for raising the issue and sharing the pain which Kashmir was going through. “Why is the government scared of a debate?” he asked.

When Congress member Satyavrat Chaturvedi said Kurein himself had said the debate would take place today, the deputy chairman said it was a miscommunication. “This is what happens when people like me speak Hindi,” Kurien said.

PDP MP Mir Mohammed Fayaz, however, raised questions about the utility of sending a parliamentary delegation to Kashmir. “Who will meet them?” he asked.

He said there was a roadmap for development of Kashmir and if that was discussed, he would welcome it.

As some Congress members interrupted him, he said: “It is because of you that the people of the state are suffering.”

Meanwhile, the leaders of opposition parties from Jammu & Kashmir, led by Omar Abdullah, on Saturday met President Pranab Mukherjee, requesting him to urge the Centre to find a political solution to the crisis.

The delegation also submitted a memorandum to the president and apprised him of the “worsening” situation in the state.

Omar said the delegation also requested the president to use his “influence” on the state as well as the Centre “to stop the use of lethal force against civilians in the valley”.

“The failure of the Central government to acknowledge that the issue in Kashmir is largely of a political nature has worsened the already volatile situation,” Omar told reporters after an hour-long meeting with the president.

“We have requested the president to impress upon the central government to initiate a credible and meaningful process of political dialogue without any further delay involving all stakeholders to address the political issue in the state,” the NC leader said.

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He said the situation cannot be handled administratively or by creating a humanitarian crisis.

“You see, we are having curfew for the last 43 days. Now sale of petrol has been stopped which means it will also affect movement of ambulances. With stringent curfew measures being enforced, more and more people are being driven out onto the streets and the problem is getting worse,” Omar said, adding having further restrictions placed on them only increases their misery.

He said the situation in the valley should be blamed upon the ruling Mehbooba Mufti government and not on Pakistan.

“What happened after Burhan Wani’s killing is a result of our own mistakes,” said Omar.

The delegation, which also comprised CPM MLA M Y Tarigami, Congress MLAs led by its PCC chief GA Mir and independent MLA Hakeem Yaseen, has also sought time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the situation.

Meanwhile, taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a prayer for him which asks for freedom from ignorance, a day after Modi said the BJP suffered more adversities in independent India than Congress did during the British rule.

“Modiji a prayer for you: “Asatoma Sadgamaya Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya Mrityorma Amritam gamaya Om shanti shanti shanty.”

“Lead me from ignorance to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. Let there be peace for all living creatures,” the Congress vice-president said in two tweets.

The transport organisations, ferrying essential supplies in Jammu and Kashmir, on Saturday began an “indefinite strike” and halted supply of commodities in the state including to security forces alleging attacks on their trucks in the Valley.

“From today onwards, we have decided to proceed on an indefinite strike across the state,” President of All Jammu and Kashmir Truck Drivers and Conductors Union, Kharudin Wani, said.

The All Jammu and Kashmir Oil Tankers Association too has decided to call for an indefinite strike, stating that 14 oil tankers were attacked and damaged.

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