Srinagar: Against the backdrop of a tourist being killed by stone-throwers, a first in Kashmir, and a spurt in violence in the valley, representatives of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir met today in Srinagar in a meeting called by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The meeting comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state next week.
On Monday, a 25-year-old from Tamil Nadu who had come to Kashmir on a holiday along with his family, died after being hit by a stone in clashes between protesters and security forces on the outskirts of Srinagar. Ms Mufti has called called the incident a shame.
Last week, six civilians died and some others were injured in clashes with the security forces after five local terrorists, including an assistant professor of Kashmir University, were killed in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Shopian. Of late, there has been a spurt in such clashes, with locals thronging encounter sites.
At the meeting, the chief minister voiced her concern, especially over the involvement of children in street protests and violence.
“Young kids are telling their mothers — we are going for an encounter. I want to ask, how can we improve the situation? As a government, we need to find solutions to improve the lives of the next generation, of the youth in colleges and universities,” Ms Mufti told the meeting.
Home ministry officials are worried about the recent spurt in encounters in the valley, particularly those in the past week. This year, as many as 45 young men from Kashmir have joined the terrorist ranks.
The overriding sense at the meeting was in favour of a political outreach in Kashmir and the need for the national leadership to reach out, said senior PDP leader and minister Naeem Akhtar.
“Perhaps, the national leadership can take a leaf out of Vajpayee’s initiatives,” said Mr Akhtar.
In 2000, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced a unilateral ceasefire with terrorists during the holy month Ramzan in Kashmir. In 2003, he extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan, ensured a ceasefire at the border besides initiating a dialogue process with Kashmiri separatist groups.