New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah flew to the Capital on Monday calling for urgent reinforcements to end to the worst violence in two years in which more than 30 people have died.
At least four people were killed and 50 wounded on Monday in clashes with police in different areas of the Himalayan region after protesters set fire to a police station, pelted security forces with stones and damaged a railway station, witnesses said.
Addressing a news conference, Abdullah said: “Tragically, we have locked ourselves into a cycle of violence where protests lead to death leading to further protests, leading to further casualties. This cycle of violence must end.”
The chief minister said he needed more paramilitary and rapid action forces (RAF) to quell the protests and ensure a curfew, defied by thousands on Monday, was enforced.
Abdullah said the state needs a political initiative to deal with the situation but made it clear that for that to happen a semblance of normalcy is a precursor.
“To stop the system of lawlessness, and to allow the government to take the necessary steps to bring normalcy, curfew, when announced, will have to be implemented swiftly. There will be no other way around this.”
Abdullah said the authorities had tried to involve the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference alliance in dialogue but said a return to some normalcy was needed for any real progress.
Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a high-level meeting to discuss the current unrest in the Valley and find an administrative and political way out in consultation with the chief minister.
All the members of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram, defence minister A K Antony and external affairs minister S M Krishna were present at the meeting.
During the meeting, Omar raised issues including the need for additional forces and initiation of “internal and external” dialogue with people concerned.
The meeting comes a day after the CCS met to discuss the political and administrative steps needed to be taken to defuse the escalating situation in the Valley.
The meeting voiced its resolve to help the state government in all possible ways and also underscored the need for adequate backup for the CRPF and state police while dealing with protesters.
The state government had also sent a request for a policy to rehabilitate former terrorists, who have served their jail sentence and were unemployed besides a comprehensive policy for those youths who were willing to return from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
According to sources, intelligence agencies have reported that a majority of stone pelters were former terrorists who were at present unemployed.
The biggest demonstrations in the last two years across the Valley started on 11 June when a 17-year-old student died after being hit by a tear gas shell fired by police during protests in Srinagar.
The violence could hurt a tentative peace process launched since the 2008 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists.
India deployed the army in Srinagar last month for the first time in nearly two decades. They were pulled from the city when violence was brought under control.
New Delhi has accused the Pakistan-based terrorist, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), of fomenting violence in Kashmir.
“I don’t believe that there is one particular group or individual that can direct what is happening in the valley,” Abdullah said. “There are a number of elements that are fishing in troubled waters.”
Sonia pained at Kashmir violence
Expressing pain over the upsurge in violence in Kashmir, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said the state government should give a push to development to address the situation besides bringing to book elements who are “instigating” unrest in the Valley.
Gandhi, whose party is a coalition partner in the Omar Abdullah government, said, “We are pained by the upsurge in violence in J&K recently. My deepest condolence to those innocent men and women who were killed in this mindless violence.”
In a message to party cadres in the Congress mouthpiece ‘Sandesh’, she said, “I understand there are elements with ulterior motives that were instigating these attacks. These elements must be identified and brought to book.”