Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continued his four-day “outreach” visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, vowing to “turn Kashmir into a heaven (jannat), even as a delegation of the Congress party led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed in Jammu as part of a similar outreach to several other areas of the State this week.
Mr. Rajnath Singh, who visited Anantnag in south Kashmir on Sunday, praised the role of the Jammu and Kashmir police as well as paramilitary forces for their “unassailable and unmatched courage.”
“Kashmir will be free from terror and no force in the world will be able to stop it from becoming heaven again,” said Mr. Singh, during his interactions with the police and CRPF in Anantnag, one of the Valley’s most volatile areas.
Police role lauded
On his second day in the State, Mr. Rajnath Singh lauded the role of the police force, which lost 25 personnel this year in militant attacks, the highest in the past four years.
He promised more bullet-proof vehicles, bullet-proof vests and a trauma centre for the police, as well as helicopter services for security forces in J&K.
Monmohan Singh arrives for a meeting with party leaders, in Jammu on Sunday.
“This is not an ordinary sacrifice, this is the supreme sacrifice. Even the Prime Minister has praised your courage. Not only J&K but the whole nation is proud of your bravery and valour in facing terrorism sponsored by the neighbouring country,” said Mr. Singh.
Paying tribute to constable Imtiyaz Ahmad, killed on Saturday in a militant attack, Mr. Singh said he “can’t bear the tears” of families of policemen killed.
“J&K police are giving their sacrifice for Kashmir, for the country and for Kashmiris, but it is unfortunate that people are not ready to understand it,” he added.
The high-level Congress group, headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, met a number of delegations in Jammu, which included groups representing women, minorities, migrants from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, besides prominent civil society members.
The Congress delegation, which is planning to visit the Kashmir Valley next week, is holding a wide-ranging interaction with civil society groups to “understand the changing ground realities.” It will later apprise the party at the executive meeting being held on Kashmir.
Senior Congress leader Dr. Karan Singh, former Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, and AICC general secretary Ambika Soni are also part of the group.
“This visit is aimed at holding talks with a cross section of society in J&K to know about issues confronting the State. We had announced our visit much earlier than him (Union Minister). However, it’s good if any engagement has started with Kashmir,” said Mr. Azad.
Omar meets Minister
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah led a party delegation to meet Mr. Rajnath Singh and raised the issue of J&K’s special status. Referring to the “deteriorating situation” in the Valley, Mr. Abdullah sought a sustained and open-ended political engagement with the stakeholders in Kashmir “irrespective of their ideology.” He also urged New Delhi and Islamabad to make sincere and sustained efforts towards resumption of a comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues including that of Kashmir.
As a result of the VIP visits to the State, heavy security arrangements have been made in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag.
“The shutdown during Mr. Singh’s visit once again proved that Kashmir is not a law and order issue or an internal matter of Delhi but a human and political issue which needs to be resolved by accepting its disputed nature,” said Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
However, another Hurriyat faction chairman Syed Ali Geelani said, “It’s meaningless to talk about development as people are being mercilessly killed and properties vandalised.”