Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday sought to address the concerns over the legal challenge to the Constitution’s Article 35A by stating that the Narendra Modi government would do nothing that would go against the aspirations of Kashmiri people while also asserting that he was ready to come here and meet anyone to bring peace to the state.
Concluding his two-day visit to the Kashmir Valley on Monday, he also said that the situation here was improving and he could see “the green buds of peace on the trees”.
Addressing the media before leaving on two-day visit to Jammu, he said the controversy round article 35A was a non-issue that was being unfortunately raked up.
“The centre will do nothing that would go against the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people regarding article 35A.
“I feel there is no reason for doubt and confusion on this issue. The centre has not gone to the court in this regard and I want to assure that whatever our government will do, it will not go against the wishes and aspirations of the people,” he said.
Asked about the divergent positions taken by the RSS and even the BJP leaders and ministers who were demanding the abrogation of the article that gives special privileges to the permanent residents of J&K, an assertive Rajnath Singh said: “I am a BJP leader and the Home Minister of the country. My statement on this issue should be taken as final.”
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her predecessor Omar Abdullah both welcomed the assurance, but the latter also sought that the central government should now translate the assurance on ground by filing a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court.
Rajnath Singh, meanwhile asked about starting a political initiative in the state, said: “I have never counted the number of times I came here. I have always come with an open mind, but people must come forward to talk.”
Asked about the arrests of separatist leaders in the state, he said the National Investigation Agency is acting according to the law of the land, but added that this should not deter those who want to talk to the government.
“Law will take its course, but we are ready to speak to everybody. We have never opposed talks. The all party delegation came here and met everybody, we did not oppose that. I have already said that all stakeholders are welcome and anybody ready to talk to us is welcome,” he asserted.
He also said that during his present trip, he was convinced that things were improving in the Valley.
“What I have seen during last two, three days has convinced me that the trees of peace have not dried up. I can see green buds of peace on these trees.
“I have not counted how many times I have come here. If I have to come 50 times to bring peace to J&K, I will do that,” he asserted.
Singh said he met 55 delegations during this visit and was always ready to meet anyone without reservations.
“I have met non-political people including students, teachers, things are improving with every passing day. The situation may not have improved completely, but it is improving. I don’t want to leave out anyone with whom dialogue is possible,” he added.
He said he was moved to tears while paying tributes to slain policemen in south Kashmir.
“While giving tributes to Kashmir policemen, the face of ASI Abdul Rashid’s daughter, Zohra was passing through my mind. We want every face in Kashmir to smile,” he said.
He said the issue of disturbed area allowance to state policemen on the pattern of central armed forces was being considered.
On the developmental front, he said: “I have reviewed the progress on the implementation of Prime Minister’s developmental package for the state. From the initially slotted Rs 85,000 crore, it will now cross Rs 100,000 crore.”
The minister also said that children must have been pushed by motivators to commit crimes and they should not be treated as criminals.
“They must be dealt under juvenile justice system and not be put into jails. They must be properly counselled. I told security forces that no excesses should be committed during operations.”
He blamed terrorists for destroyed generations of Kashmir and reaffirmed that the government will not allow another generation to be destroyed.
“Poor people and businessman, youth with positive attitude and tourism industry have immensely suffered. After a wrong message went out, tourists stopped coming here. I want to send them a message that the people of Kashmir are ready to receive you, there is no danger here,” he said.
On the use of pellet gun, he said they had introduced the PAVA gun to replace it but he had been told that it is not very effective. However, he added that in comparison to past, less people have been injured during crowd control in the Valley during the past months.
He denied any political party delegations had sought revocation of the stringent AFSPA during their meetings with him.
Rajnath Singh held later a rally in Naushera in Jammu region where he said India wanted peace with Pakistan, but will respond to its ceasefire violations sternly. He also met residents of border villages who have migrated to safer places due to the ceasefire violations by the Pakistani troops.
In Jammu city, various delegations called on him.