Describing the situation in Kashmir as “much graver” than it appeared to be, the Communist Party of India (CPI) on Wednesday said the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it.
Sharing experiences of his visit to Jammu and Kashmir as part of the all-party delegation, party MP Gurudas Dasgupta said the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated.”
He demanded the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) selectively, the release of all political prisoners against whom there were no substantial charges and the setting up of a parliamentary committee on Kashmir as a goodwill gesture that would be “advisory” in nature.
While Mr. Dasgupta was critical of the presence of a large number of security forces in the Valley and the lack of accountability for their actions, his ire was directed more towards the Chief of the Army Staff, General V.K. Singh, for his remarks that the AFSPA was an “enabling provision.”
“The Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it,” Mr. Dasgupta said.
“I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India,” he said.
While conveying the appreciation of the people towards the all-party delegation's visit, he said mistakes were being committed by the security forces and the political leadership.
Mr. Dasgupta also questioned the rationale behind not accepting the Jammu and Kashmir government's autonomy resolution and the reports of various working groups.
“The special position of the State has been gradually diluted. We have allowed the situation to deteriorate.”
He said he had also conveyed to the people that some of their demands were being supported, but not that of ‘azadi.'
On the disagreement expressed by the Bharatiya Janata Party over some leaders visiting Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mr. Dasgupta said the suggestion was made by the Left leaders and approved by the delegation leader, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who himself could not visit Mr. Geelani as protocol did not permit it.
Suggesting the use of non-lethal weapons such as ‘lathis' and ‘water-cannons' to fight the stone-pelting mobs in the Valley, Mr. Dasgupta said the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified. He also drew attention to the shortage of essential commodities and medicines in the State in the wake of long stretches of curfew.