With 30 dead and more than 800 now injured in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a meeting this morning on the crisis that began with the shooting of 22-year-old terrorist Burhan Wani, provoking large clashes between civilians and security forces.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has cancelled a trip to the US – he was to leave on next week. The PM returned this morning from a tour of Africa.
In an unprecedented gesture to build support for its strategy, the government has briefed senior opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Omar Abdullah and Sitaram Yechury to avoid public criticism from political opponents as Pakistan tries to aggravate the unrest in the 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley.
“There is enough information we have about Pakistan’s role in aiding and abetting trouble in the Kashmir region,” said Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and a lawmaker from Jammu and Kashmir.
Yesterday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement which eulogised Wani, provoking a warning from Delhi for Islamabad to “refrain from interfering” in India’s internal affairs.
The army and security forces were urged to adopt “a more judicious use of force”, said a source, as they took on hostile demonstrators who crowded the streets for a third day on Monday despite a curfew in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley.
The government is keen to resume the Amarnath Yatra and ensure thousands of worshippers are not inconvenienced. Sources say top officers are worried that stalling of the yatra will be seen as the government’s inability to control law and order and guarantee safe passage to devotees who come from all over India for the exacting pilgrimage.
When the situation quietens, community elders will be enlisted in cooperation with the state government to talk to neighbourhoods and reverse the perception of a heavy-handed administration and people-unfriendly security forces.
Wani was just 15 when he joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest terrorist group in Kashmir. He rose through the ranks quickly, leveraging a growing resentment against the security forces with a firm grip on social media, where he posted pictures of himself and other young men with weapons.
Thousands attended his funeral on Saturday.
Sources say the situation is improving but that the government is sending more troops to the Kashmir Valley to prevent any escalation of violence encouraged by Pakistan or militants within Kashmir.