Pakistan played a “key role” in fomenting the recent trouble in Kashmir and it was sponsoring terrorism in India, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.
Observing that the situation in the Valley was “normalising” gradually, he singled out Pakistan for fomenting trouble there, saying it had played a “key role” in fuelling tension and that terrorism in India was sponsored by the country.
Referring to the ‘black day’ observed by Pakistan on the killing a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terrorist in Kashmir, he said it has no right to interfere in India’s internal matters, but it was doing so to deflect attention from its failures as the people there were fighting along sectarian lines.
“If there is terrorism in India, then it is Pakistan-sponsored,” the Home Minister said.
He also announced in Lok Sabha that an expert committee will be set up to recommend alternatives to pellet guns, a non-lethal weapon blamed for causing fatal injuries and blindness among protestors in Kashmir.
Replying to a discussion on the Kashmir unrest, Mr. Singh said the committee will submit its report in two months.
He also rejected apprehensions of some members that terrorism was on rise in the valley as he reeled out figures to suggest that it had gone down with the security forces eliminating more militants.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed security forces to maintain “maximum restraint”, he said, but added that it cannot be denied if someone had committed some mistakes.
“We all feel sad over the lives lost and those injured,” Mr. Singh said. He also noted that “barbarism” can have no place in the society as some people had celebrated when some security personnel were killed.
Referring to many members’ concerns over the use pellet guns, he said one person had died due to injuries caused by these weapons, while 53 suffered injuries in eyes.
These guns, categorised as non-lethal, were used in 2010 as well when it had killed six persons and caused eye injuries to 98 with five suffering complete blindness, he said, rejecting criticism that security forces used them indiscriminately.
Mr. Singh then announced that the government was considering alternatives to pellet guns.
“We will form a committee of experts. It will see to it what non-lethal alternatives we can bring in place of pellet guns. It will give report in two months,” he said.
Mr. Singh said five civilians had died in terror incidents so far this year prior to the ongoing unrest, as against 17, 28 and 15 in 2015, 2014 and 2012.
During the current protests, 38 civilians were killed and 2,180 injured with 2,055 of them having been discharged from hospitals. One security person had also died and 1739 of them suffered injuries, the Home Minister said.
The government alone cannot solve problems in Kashmir and all parties would have to work together, he said.
Training guns on Pakistan, he said it came into being in the name of religion but failed to keep the Muslims together and underwent a division.
“It does not need to worry about Muslims in India,” he said and invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem to suggest that those who fuel fire in the homes of others get caught in the same blaze.
He also recalled the BJP stalwart’s mantra of " Kashmiriyat , jamhuriyat (democracy) and insaniyat (democracy)" to solve the problem there and termed the Valley as India’s crow while making a reference to Aamir Khusro’s “heaven on earth” expression for it.
“The youths of Kashmir are also patriots. There is an attempt to misguide some... There is a mindset that the stokes baseless anger against India,” he said, adding that same “distorted mindset” can be seen in parts of Chhattisgarh, in a reference to Maoist violence there.
Referring to the demand of some members that an all-party delegation be sent to the Valley, he said he had spoken to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who said it could be discussed when she comes to Delhi in the next 2-3 days as the situation there was returning to normal.
“I myself want to go there and stay in a guest house to establish dialogue with the people there... We are sure that we will succeed in improving the conditions in Kashmir,” Mr. Singh said.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Singh said, had remained in touch with him over the situation in Kashmir during his foreign tour and offered his suggestions.
“I felt he was in pain and worried. The first meeting he called upon his return to India was to discuss Kashmir,” the Home Minister said.
Noting that Pakistan has an evil eye on Kashmir, he assured the House that the government will restore its pride and glory.
Striking a conciliatory note, he said all governments in the past have made efforts to improve the conditions there.
He called Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing sparked the recent protests, a “tech-savvy terrorist of new generation” who had exploited social media platforms to lure youths into picking up the gun. He noted that the terror outfits like the Hizb and LeT ran their camps in Pakistan.
The Home Minister termed plebiscite an “outdated and irrelevant” idea.