With the Centre moving to deploy additional paramilitary forces to cope with a vicious cycle of protests, violence and firing that has left scores in Jammu and Kashmir dead and injured over the past month, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Monday that restoration of normality was the pre-requisite for any political or administrative initiative to be taken in the Valley.
Addressing a press conference here after a lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and other members of the Cabinet Committee on Security, Mr. Abdullah reiterated his appeal to the people to “break this cycle of violence” and help the return of normality. “People should stop taking law into their hands and attacking police stations and government buildings. Consequences of such action are often serious and tragic. I have been appealing to people to stop this lawlessness,” he said.
Government sources said three options — Governor's rule, change of Chief Minister and sending in additional forces — were considered at the meeting but it was decided that the best course of action was the third one. Though the Centre accepted that there was anger against Mr. Abdullah in the Valley, it recognised the elected government was the best buffer, the sources said. The government also took note of the fact that the ongoing Amarnath Yatra remained peaceful, thanks in part to the presence of security forces.
Mr. Abdullah told reporters that the ongoing protests in different parts of the Valley were not engineered or planned by any one individual or group. “There are a number of elements fishing in trouble waters. It is largely leaderless. As Chief Minister, it is not possible for me to suggest as to who is directing these protests,” he said.
It was the responsibility of the government to restore law and order, he said, adding that the moment people stopped taking law into their hands, the cycle of violence would end. He stressed that curfew would have to be strictly implemented and that there were no other way around it. The Chief Minister said Central paramilitary forces in the State were already overstretched. “Clearly, there is a need to augment forces' presence. I have also requested [for the] Rapid Action Force as it is a specialised force in dealing with protests. The Home Minister has assured me that he will look into these requirements,'' he said.
Recognising the need for a political solution, he said certain initiatives lay in the pipeline “and are possible if both the Centre and the State are able to restore normality.''
To a question, Mr. Abdullah admitted there was “anger and alienation” among the people and said the State required a “political package.” Elaborating, he said he would be looking at issues such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, footprint of security forces, rehabilitation of Kashmiri youth who had strayed across the LoC, relief to victims of the current trouble, future engagement of youth with the State and the problem of unemployment.