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J&K Opposition reminds Modi of Atal: Will next Mann ki Baat be on Kashmir?

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 22 August 2016, 20:21 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is serious about resolving the Kashmir issue - at least that is what the leaders of Opposition parties from the state would like to believe. Coming out of an 75-minute long meeting, these leaders expressed hope about the PM finally initiating a dialogue with all stakeholders on the violent unrest in the Valley, where the death toll has climbed to 68, with thousands still recuperating from serious injuries.

"The Prime Minister patiently heard the issues raised by the delegation, and assured that a dialogue is necessary to find a permanent solution to the problem. He also claimed the issue was not confined to development, and that there are larger issues at play, which can be resolved through constructive dialogue with all stakeholders. By the look of it, he seemed serious about it," said Yusuf Tarigami, the lone CPI(M) legislator from the state, who represents the Kulgam constituency and was part of the delegation.

On Monday, Modi met a delegation of leaders of Opposition parties from J&K to discuss the ongoing violent unrest in the state and the way forward. "We brought to his notice the path of dialogue effectively used by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and questioned why the BJP is backing out of it. In his response, the PM agreed to the suggestion. We also felt that the PM is willing to engage with the Opposition and other stakeholders. He did offer some hope of a dialogue," said Ghulam Ahmad Pir, J&K state Congress president.

Catch spoke to other members of the delegation, and they too expressed similar optimism on the Central government's will to engage with Kashmiris. Sources informed that some members, during the course of the interaction, flagged the issue of the Prime Minister not mentioning Kashmir during his Independence Day speech. "He responded by saying that it was necessary to send a message to Pakistan," said a senior leader who was part of the delegation.

Responding to the issues raised during the meeting, Modi said that those who have lost their lives are "a part of us, our nation", and the agreed with the need for dialogue to find a permanent solution. Modi said, "Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us."

Those who have died in Kashmir are a part of our nation: Modi tells J&K Opposition

Moreover, Modi conveyed that his government and the nation stand with the state, and suggested that all political parties should reach out to the people and convey the same. Expressing his commitment to the development of the state and its people, the PM appealed for restoration of normalcy.

Another source added there was a high possibility of the PM taking up the Kashmir issue in the next edition of his Mann ki Baat radio talk, which is to be aired on 28 August.

The delegation

The 21-member delegation, led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, called upon the Prime Minister at his residence, 7, Race Course Road, and gave him a memorandum, expressing "anguish, grief and sorrow over the painful loss of lives in the Valley" and also the "dismay at the lack of a political initiative to deal with the situation".

The memorandum also mentioned that the "tried and tested formulations" of dealing with "Kashmir administratively rather than politically" has further worsened the situation and created "disaffection and disenchantment" amongst the locals, especially youth.

"We are of the firm opinion that the Central government should waste no further time in initiating a credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to address the unrest in the state," read the statement.

The delegation, in its memorandum, and during its meeting, requested the PM to stop the use of pellet guns and mass harassment - raids and arrests - which it claimed has further fuelled anger among the residents of the Valley. And that the failure to address the issue is exacerbating the feeling of alienation among the people of Kashmir.

These leaders have been camping in the capital for the last few days, and met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday, and briefed him about the death and destruction caused in the backdrop of protests across the Valley. The delegation blamed the BJP-PDP coalition government for its handling of the volatile situation in the state, and how it has worsened under the wrong approach adopted by the state government.

On Saturday, the delegation submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee, and requested him to use his office to convince the Centre to initiate a political dialogue with all stakeholders in the state.

Meanwhile, the situation in Valley remains volatile which has been under curfew for more than 45 days.

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First published: 22 August 2016, 20:21 IST