Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that an expert committee would be formed to recommend non-lethal alternatives of crowd control after many Members of Parliament expressed concern over the loss of lives and injuries in Jammu and Kashmir due to the use of pellet guns.
Replying to a debate on the Kashmir unrest in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Singh said the committee would be asked to submit a report in two months.
“We all feel sad over the lives lost and those injured,” he said.
Mr. Singh quoted former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech on Kashmir, saying that the solution to issues in the Valley should be within the framework of ‘ Kashmiriyat ’, ‘ Jamhooriyat ’ (democracy) and ‘ Insaaniyat ’ (humane concerns) but that ‘haivaniyat’ or ‘barbarism’ could have no place in society, citing incidents where some people had celebrated when security personnel were killed.
Referring to concerns over the use of pellet guns, Mr. Singh said one person had died due to injuries caused by these weapons, while 53 had suffered eye injuries.
According to him, this was not the first time that these guns, categorised as non-lethal, had been used in Kashmir. They had been used earlier in 2010, when six people were killed by these and 98 had sustained eye injuries, with five suffering complete blindness.
Attacking Pakistan, Mr. Singh said that “there is an attempt to misguide” the youth in the Valley and that a “mindset that stokes baseless anger against India” was being fostered among them.
Mr. Singh said the neighbouring country came into being in the name of religion but failed to keep Muslims together and underwent a division.
“It does not need to worry about Muslims in India,” the Minister said.
Mr. Singh reached out to other political parties, saying the government alone cannot solve problems in Kashmir and all parties would have to work together.
He described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing in an encounter sparked the recent protests, as a “tech-savvy terrorist of the new generation” who had exploited social media platforms to lure youths into picking up the gun.
Responding to Opposition criticism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “beating drums” in Africa when Kashmir was burning, Mr. Singh said Mr. Modi had been in constant touch with him during the tour, enquiring about the situation and giving suggestions. “I felt he was in pain and worried.The first meeting he called after his return to India was to discuss Kashmir,” said Mr. Singh.
Referring to MPs’ suggestion for an all-party delegation to visit Kashmir, he said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti would be coming to Delhi soon after the situation normalises. somewhat, and that he too would visit make a trip to the Valley.
“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.