Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on Saturday held a series of closed-door meetings with local leaders here in an attempt to end the two-week long unrest which has claimed at least fifty lives, besides leaving several thousand people injured.
However, official sources said that Singh has asked for lifting curfew in the areas which did not see much violence and were relatively calm on Saturday. “Curfew is being lifted from some parts of Srinagar and completely in the districts of Baramulla, Bandipore and Ganderbal immediately”, a police spokesman said in Srinagar. Singh is also reported to have favoured the restoration of mobile phone services in the Valley which was snapped following the widespread protests and turbulence.
Soon after his arrival, Singh, who is on a 2-day visit, was briefed on the latest situation on ground by the senior officers of J&K police and various central forces and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). This was followed by a series of closed-door meetings with the members of select civil society groups, trade union organisations and clergy from the Valley.
Those who met the Home Minister till late Sunday afternoon include Sanjay K Tickoo, president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), representatives of the Houseboat Owners Association, Shikarawalla Association and Sunday Market Traders’ Association and former IAS officers and other bureaucrats including Khursheed A Ganai and Muhammad Shaffi Pandit.
But Srinagar-based trade union organisations including Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Kashmir Traders’ Federation and also familiar civil society groups of the Valley, however, refused to meet Singh on the plea the government should first halt killing and maiming people at the hands of security forces. Leaders and representatives of various mainstream political parties are also scheduled to meet Singh later on Saturday and Sunday.
However, it is learnt that main opposition parties National Conference (NC) and Congress are still undecided on the matter. NC had boycotted an all-party meeting convened here on Thursday by Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, to deliberate on the situation on the premise the PDP-BJP government is grappling in dark and ‘non serious’ on the crisis. It also alleged that the all-party meeting was “a guilt induced hogwash of the State government to absolve itself of its failures”.
Singh is also scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose repeated appeals for ending protests and maintaining peace have failed to impress people. Mufti, on Saturday, visited the frontier town of Kupwara where she met the family of one of the slain youth. The Home Minister will also meet Governor Narendra Nath Vohra separately.
Separatists have called for the shutdown in the Valley to continue till Monday and have also called for people to move to southern Anantnag to express solidarity with the families of the slain youth.