The All-party delegation that went to Jammu & Kashmir was in two minds over visiting hospitals to see those injured by pellet guns but ultimately decided against it, the Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office and a key delegation member, Jitendra Singh, says.
The Udhampur MP spoke to ET in an interview on Thursday. None of the all-party delegation members went to see the injured in hospitals – Home Minister Rajnath Singh too avoided the same in his earlier two visits to Srinagar. “There was divided opinion upon that (visiting hospitals) for various strategic and intelligence reasons. That is not to be discussed in public,” Singh told ET, when asked why the move which may have had a ‘healing touch’ not opted for. Sources said scenes of ruckus and protests were feared at hospitals in case of such a visit.
Singh evaded a pointed query on whether the point of talks “with all stake-holders”, as per the all-party statement, means the separatists too. “All stakeholders means all stakeholders. Kashmiriyat and Jamooriyat does not go outside the constitution,” Singh said. When asked that CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has said “all stakeholders” include the Hurriyat, Singh said: “That only Mr Yechury can answer. I am officially entitled to tell you what is there in the written statement – which says that government is open to talk to all the stakeholders.”
Singh was however clear that the mandate of the all-party delegation was to meet whoever came to meet them. Some opposition leaders like Yechury broke out of the delegation to attempt meeting the separatist leaders. Did that have the government sanction? “That is only for head of the delegation – the home minister can tell you. The HM had said neither says yes or no when his opinion was sought by these leaders,” Singh said. Asked why the BJP Ministers did not join the outreach move to separatists, Singh said: “We went by the decision taken collectively by the delegation head. The mandate was to meet anyone who comes to us. We already had so many delegations coming to us.”
Singh said over 300 people spoke to the delegation during their visit to J&K. “There were about 45 delegations in Srinagar and about 18-20 in Jammu. So I think a large section of people have come forward from across the spectrum and spoken to the delegation and also the Home Minister. So it would not be appropriate to say that different sections of society or different sections of opinion have not spoken their view. They have already spoken,” Singh said, in a veiled snub to separatists.
Asked if the Prime Minister’s statement on Baluchistan was prompted by Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir, Singh said India had security concerns. “Regardless of whether it is interference or not, what is important is that we have to safeguard our security concerns. When you have the neighbourhood on fire, you cannot remain indifferent. Because it is going to impact you. Suppose you have a boundary wall with the adjacent house and that house is on fire, it is bound to affect you sooner or later,” Singh said. He said the intervention by PM was hence “part of our responsibility” to the security concerns. “You can’t build heaven inside and leave hell outside. So it is primarily our security concerns that we had to raise that (Baluchistan) besides the human angle of the oppression and atrocities being committed there,” he said.
The PMO Minister squarely blamed Pakistan for the situation in Kashmir valley. “The Pakistan hand is very obvious and more than evident,” he said. But haven’t the pellet guns used by Indian forces caused maximum outrage at local level and international forums?
“Pellet guns were in use before we came in. they were introduced in J&K in 2010 when you had a UPA government at the centre and a National Conference-Congress government in the state. If at all we have done anything, we have tried to find another option in the form of PAVA guns,” Singh said. Asked on the way and strategy ahead and if a structured dialogue would follow, Singh said: “That I will not like to discuss. Whichever way things evolve, the government will take a call.”