Kashmiris on Tuesday made an impassioned appeal to put an immediate end to bloodshed in the Valley and sought concrete steps to resolve the Kashmir issue. They were interacting with an all-party delegation headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
Most of the delegation members visited the picturesque Tangmarg resort to see the destruction caused by a mob on September 12. Six civilians were killed in police firing and several others injured in its aftermath. They listened to a gathering arranged by local MLA and Agriculture Minister G.H. Mir. This was the only direct contact the delegation had with the common people.
Some people spoke about corruption, unemployment and lack of infrastructure development, but the dominant view was that it was time to resolve the Kashmir issue, “which can only come through better ties between India and Pakistan and initiating a dialogue.” “Feel our pain” was their refrain.
The people narrated how Kashmiris had been suffering on account of the three-month unrest, which resulted in 108 deaths so far. “We demand that this bloodshed be stopped immediately. The reason is the dispute on Kashmir,” said Bashir Ahmad, functionary of a local trader's body.
“There is an urgent need to start a dialogue — only dialogue can solve the problems. We want the government of India to better its relations with Pakistan. India-Pakistan friendship will bring peace for us,” he said.
For addressing the problem of the youth, he suggested that the government of India set up public sector institutions in Kashmir so that Kashmiri youth have something concrete to look up to.”
“We want the government of India to keep its security forces in check and we also ask our children not to react violently.''
Expressing the hope that the high-power delegation goes back with a bagful of views to ponder over, Ghulam Nabi Hakim, a political worker, told the delegates: “We have seen so many delegations in the past but no tangible results could be achieved. Once they returned to Delhi, our issues remained the way they always have been. People of Kashmir are in a state of desperation.”
Yasir Ahmad Mir, a student, asked the Home Minister to explain why bullets were being fired at peaceful protesters. “I want to ask you why you are firing bullets at us whenever there is a protest. Protests are always peaceful but unlike other States, you straightaway fire at us here. Why is it different in other States?''
Expressing dismay over corruption and misuse of funds, one participant said that unemployment was a big problem.
“The Kashmiri youth only see darkness. I would also say that Kashmiris want Hindustan to resolve its issues with its younger brother Pakistan. You have come with a lot of hope. But now this issue must not remain an issue. Please try and solve it,” he said. Tariq Lone, a tourist guide, said: “You call Kashmir an atoot ang (inalienable part) of India. If it is so, why are you firing at us? Why are you killing us? If Kashmir is atoot ang, why are you putting this ang (body part) into the frying pan? Why doesn't it cause you pain — why don't you feel our pain if we are a part of your body?” he said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Union Minister Pawan Bansal and BJP leader Arun Jaitley, among others, were part of the delegation.