*I too was shocked, this shouldn’t have happened
JAMMU, Jan 9: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today announced relief package for 2016 summer unrest victims of Kashmir and constitution of Special Investigating Teams (SITs) at the district level to probe the killings even as she firmly arrested that the unrest was pre-planned and took the separatists to task for closing doors of dialogue on the All Party Delegation that had visited Srinagar headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
In her 45-minutes reply to Adjournment Motion of the Opposition on Kashmir unrest, which had been debated on January 3 in the Legislative Assembly, Mehbooba announced Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in about five-month long unrest in the Kashmir valley, apart from a job but only on extreme compassionate grounds. Officially, 76 civilians were killed in the unrest though some organizations put the death toll around 85.
Similarly, she announced Rs 75,000 worth compensation for those rendered permanent disable and rehabilitation in case of extreme compassionate ground and free education of partially disabled. She said she had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for free education for the children, who have lost their vision, in New Delhi on the lines of Doon School.
Not conceding the Opposition demand for judicial probe into the killings, Mehbooba announced setting up of SITs at district level to probe the killings, injuries and ascertain if excessive force was used to deal with the situation. Separate SITs would probe the killings of a Lecturer at Khrew and an ATM guard at Karan Nagar, Srinagar.
“The SITs would be asked to submit their reports in time bound manner,” she said.
Asserting that it was an “extraordinary situation” and very “difficult to handle”, the Chief Minister said the unrest was “pre-planned” and the killing of Burhan Wani was just taken as an excuse to set the Valley on fire.
“Even those people, who wanted to open their shops, the Government officials, rehariwallas, families of police personnel and others opposing the unrest were targetted. The rehris were thrown into the rivers…the families of police personnel were beaten-up…the youth who refused to join the protests were fined…the children had to go to schools without wearing uniforms…the woman could move out only with prescription slips of doctors…taking exams by the children was made a crime…the employees were not allowed to go to the offices…a shopkeeper trying to open the shop was shot at..even educational institutions were not spared and set on fire…this was an extreme difficult and tough situation to handle,” she said, adding all this didn’t happen overnight and was part of “pre-planned” and “well thought of” conspiracy (to trigger the unrest).
The Chief Minister said in 2010, Army vehicles were never stopped by the protesters and recalled a famous slogan of the mob: “Yeh Andar Ki Baat Hai, General Hamare Saath Hai (this is an internal matter, the Army is with us)”. However, in 2016, the children were made shield and forced to attack or enter the Army camps, leading to retaliation and, in turn, casualties, she regretted.
Mehbooba said the life of common man was made miserable and they had to suffer a lot during the unrest. At the same time, she lauded the Government, administration and officials of Health and Education Department, who worked overnight to help the suffering people.
At this stage, Independent MLA Engineer Rashid disrupted the Chief Minister’s speech, saying “it was too much and Mehbooba had crossed all limits of defaming the Kashmiri people”. BJP MLAs including Sat Sharma and Ravinder Raina shouted down Engineer Rashid.
Mehbooba went on to say that some of the protesters were in possession of petrol bombs, wooden made sharp-edged weapons etc. “How this happened overnight? How security forces would restrain when someone would storm their camps, try to snatch their weapons?” she asked and said provocative songs were played from the Mosques and slogans given to incite the people.
Citing more instances of “well planned strategy” to disturb situation in Kashmir, the Chief Minister said rumours were spread over setting up of Sainik Colony and Kashmiri Pandit colonies.
“I never chaired a meeting for Sainik Colony. It was the then Government in 2011 which had identified the land. Pictures of an employees’ colony were circulated and shown as the Sainik Colony,” she said, adding while in 2010 there were incidents like Machil, Tujar Sharief, Shopian and Tufail Mattoo, nothing of this sort happened in 2016 and the killing of Burhan Wani was made the excuse.
Asserting that the Government had taken preventive measures after the killing of Wani, she said no incident took place in Wani’s native town of Tral.
“Whether this was done strategically, I don’t know but as a Chief Minister and the Government, I had had the only option to impose curfew, which I used to save the lives of the people,” she added and said the maximum casualties took place in South Kashmir. She said 4000 to 5000 security personnel were also injured.
Admitting that all this shouldn’t have happened under her regime as the people have high expectation from her, Mehbooba recalled that she used to visit the houses of those killed in firing…the families of youth, militants, Kashmiri Pandits and many others.
“I had rescued many youth, who were made as shield, asked to work for security forces. I was myself shocked (of the unrest). This shouldn’t have happened,” she said but added that 50 police stations and security force camps were damaged during first two-three days and security personnel used pellet guns. She said six youths have totally lost their vision, 20 have lost one eye while there were 100 others, whose both eyes were impacted.
Mehbooba, however, described as “very good sign” the security forces calling parents of the youths to the site of encounters and bringing six of them out of the militancy. “If we catch them young, there is nothing like that,” she commented.
Mehbooba blamed Pakistan and the separatists for derailing the dialogue process by shutting doors on the All Party Delegation.
“The Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Lahore and it was followed by Pathankot terrorist attack and today in Akhnoor. Entire nation had their eyes on those (separatists) doors and the nation was breathless to see the outcome and several senior leaders went to meet them. They could have opened the doors,” Mehbooba said.
She said that had the separatists opened their doors, it could have led to the start of a dialogue.
“A message would have gone and they (separatists) would have told the All Party Delegation what they have done in the past and what steps have they taken to resolve the issue,” she said.
The Chief Minister said that she wants the walls of hate to fall down and let hearts meet.
“Despite several provocations, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh went to Pakistan but was it the way they should have treated him like this,” Mehbooba said.
She said 370 people were arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Government will review their cases but the process had to be shelved due to the unrest and will begin soon. There were 138 others who were lodged in jails, she added.
Appealing to the Opposition to help her “heal” the wounds of the people, she said, “I strongly feel that the situation was not sudden and going on for several years. My request is that be it 2010 or 2016 it should not have happened, either on your time or ours. Help us to heal the wounds of the people and to bring them out of this,” she said.
On the allegations that preparations were not made to handle the situation post the Burhan Wani encounter, Mehbooba said that the encounter happened all of sudden and immediately curfew was declared but it could not be fully imposed as large number of security forces were deployed for the Amarnath yatra.
“Even the Army avoids an encounter if they feel that collateral damage will be high,” she added.
Mehbooba asserted that her Government is committed to bring the youth of Kashmir, who have taken guns, back to the mainstream.
“I am committed that those who want to return and are not indulged in any terrorist activity want to come back, we would help them come back in mainstream,” she said.
In the six encounters that took place in the past two months, six boys surrendered after their families appeal to them. One of them did not even know how to fire a bullet,” the Chief Minister said.
Mehbooba rejected any comparison of last year’s unrest with the trouble witnessed in 2010, when the State was being ruled by Omar Abdullah-led National Conference-Congress Government.
“There is huge difference between that time (2010) and this time (2016). At that time, children used to go to the shops to get their eatables and food items even for toffees because shops were opened. But this time (2016), if anyone dared to open any shop in entire Kashmir valley, his shop was subjected to damage. Nobody was allowed to open shops,” she said.
Mehbooba said there was an “atmosphere, in which on one side there was imposition of curfew, on other side there was shutdown and on the third side there was call of assemblies (‘chalo’ call)…. Children used to come out and they were being forced to be part of rally. … Who was happy that these things should happen?”
She said there were “elements with well thought out plan to do this (unrest). It did not happen due to raking up of Kashmiri Pandit township issue, followed by Sainik Colony issues and ultimately they got the trigger of Burhan Wani’s killing and those elements used their all infrastructure to what happened.”
Recalling the events leading to the unrest, the CM said she had asked the security agencies to take caution after she was told about Burhan’s killing in an encounter.
“When I got the phone call that Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter, I asked the police and security agencies to exercise caution that it was expected that people would come out to attend the funeral. I asked them to impose curfew. If someone is to be hanged, it is told in advance and security apparatus can be put in place but when this encounter took place, the security forces were busy in managing Amarnath yatra,” she said.
“People came out from places where it was unexpected. Over 50 police and security camps were damaged and 215 such incidents took place. I asked for restraint but there were certain elements who pushed the children inside and then themselves escaped and small children became the target,” she said.
Answering opposition charge that they were not taken on board during the unrest, the Chief Minister said she had tried to reach to National Conference leader Omar Abdullah by calling him but was told that “he would call her back. And I waited but the call never came.”
She said she had also called up Omar’s father Farooq Abdullah when he returned from London after his treatment and “again I was told that he will call me back but again no call came.”
Apparently referring to the 2010 unrest, she said, “Omar was fortunate as his father was there to defend him to say that my son is there in Kashmir fighting the Pakistan for India.”