He also said that Kashmiris will continue to cross to the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) till the issue of Kashmir is resolved.
Srinagar: In September last year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, sought to glorify slain Hizbul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by calling him a “freedom fighter” during his speech at the UN General Assembly, the rant he continued with at his party meet back home later. India was prompt to react strongly to his comment, accusing the neighbouring country of sponsoring terrorism on Indian soil.
On Tuesday, a lawmaker of opposition National Conference (NC) lawmaker chose to make a similar averment on the floor of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, now in its budget session in winter capital Jammu, facing ire of ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) members.
NC’s Showkat Hussain Ganie said that Wani was a “freedom fighter,” who died a “martyr”. He also said that Kashmiris will continue to cross to the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) till the issue of Kashmir is resolved. He while continuing with his diatribe said that even the Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin crossed over to Pakistan “not to contest election but for the resolution of long-pending Kashmir dispute.”
PDP’s Firdous Tak while interrupting Ganie asked him to clarify before the House if it was his personal view or that of his party. Without answering the query, the NC member said he stood by what he had said and again called Wani a “freedom fighter.” This led to a verbal dual between him and the PDP members who alleged that the NC paid money to its workers to fuel street protests across the Valley following Wani’s killing during a security forces’ operation in July last year. The PDP member Saifuddin Bhat charged that the NC tried to topple the PDP-BJP government by inciting violence in Kashmir.
The killing of Wani and resultant unrest in the Valley dominated proceedings of the State Assembly as well. Soon after the House assembled for the day, the opposition members were on their feet and began chanting slogans against the PDP-BJP government.
As the House witnessed intense uproar with opposition NC and Congress continuing their protest over the civilian deaths on the second consecutive day, Speaker Kavinder Gupta allowed the opposition members to move the motion for a discussion on the unrest.
Former chief minister and NC working president, Omar Abdullah, initiated the discussion and said that the government mishandled the situation. He also said that there was confusion whether the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, was aware of the encounter in which Wani was killed or not.
He said that the then additional director general of police (CID) S.M. Sahai had in his press conference said that the Chief Minister was briefed about such encounters but later the government contradicted him by saying she is not told about every incident.
Mufti had surprised all by saying on July 28 that had the security forces who raided a militant hideout in Kokernag area of southern Anantnag on July 8 and subsequently killed three Hizb cadres known beforehand that Wani was among them “they may have given him a second chance.” She termed the killing of Wani as a “coincidence”.
She also said that she was not aware of the operation carried out jointly by J&K police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) and Army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles at Bamdoora Kokernag. “How would you know that”, she had asked. She was responding to a report appearing in a national daily that the Chief Minister was informed, in writing, of the July 8 raid as well as an operation targeting Wani in March.
“The Chief Minister, as home minister, is informed of all the activities,” S.M. Sahai, had said earlier, on being asked if the Chief Minister knew about the operation beforehand.
During the discussion in the Assembly on Tuesday, Abdullah said that the unrest witnessed in the Valley in 2010 cannot be compared with that of 2016. He termed the PDP-BJP alliance as “unholy”. But BJP ally and minister for science and technology, Sajad Gani Lone, while reacting to it accused Abdullah of resorting to theatrics and said that the opposition was on a score settling mission.
He called the youth slain during the unrest as ‘aazadi ke matwale’ (the freedom seekers) and asked the members to show some respect for the dead. Responding to Abdullah’s “can’t compare 2010 with 2016” remark, Lone said, “We cannot delink 2016 from 2010.”
He alleged, “For every killing that takes place in Jammu and Kashmir, historically you have a role”. He asserted that the protests in Kashmir are about aspirations and not about grievances.
Reacting to former Chief Minister’s terming the PDP-BJP alliance as “unholy”, Lone said that the alliances by different parties in the past were unholy too and that “My history is bad but their (opposition) is worse.”
CPI (M)’s Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami urged Chief Minister, Mufti to initiate a process of “sustainable and credible dialogue” on Kashmir issue towards developing trust in people. He said, “We need a permanent solution or the situation like this (post-Wani killing unrest) can erupt again.” He asserted that politicians are no more trusted by the people of Kashmir. Congress Nawang Rigzin Jora said that over 800 persons have been slapped with the State’s stringent Public safety Act (PSA) and dozens were blinded during the uprising.
The government earlier acknowledged in the House that Wani’s killing had given impetus to militancy in Kashmir. It informed that a total of 59 youths in the Valley joined militant ranks after the Hizb commander’s death. "As reported by CID headquarters, 59 youth have joined militant ranks after 8th July, 2016", Chief Minister Mufti said in a written reply to the question by NC’s Mubarak Gul.
She also said that the State government has notified a surrender policy which was superseded by rehabilitation policy to encourage the "misguided" youths and militants to abjure violence and "accept the integrity of India and the Constitution". Mufti who holds also the home portfolio added that the policy was notified in 2004 so that they can join the national mainstream and lead a normal life.
Elaborating, the Chief Minister said that under the policy the State government will provide them incentives including fixed deposits of Rs 1.50 lakh, payment of monetary incentive for surrender of weapons and stipend for a period of 3 years at the rate of Rs 2,000 per month from the date of surrender. She further said that under the policy, 437 cases of surrendered militants were received from 2004 till date and that out of these 216 cases have been finalised and monthly incentives of Rs 2.68 cores have been paid whereas 219 cases were rejected.
Meanwhile, the government sources have corroborated that militancy related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir increased last year in comparison to 2015. The sources said that against 151 incidents in 2014, there were 143 incidents in 2015 which jumped to 243 in 2016. Also, there were as many as 16 cases of weapon snatching reported across the Valley in 2016 and only in one of these the snatched weapons could be recovered.
The other incidents included two major attacks at Army camps in Uri and Nagrota in which 27 soldiers and officers were killed and about two dozen others were injured on September 30 and November 29, respectively. Both these incidents are being investigated by the NIA and in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such or similar attacks, the security forces have initiated a series of measures including maintaining greater synergy amongst various security and intelligence agencies and strengthening the counter-insurgency grid.
The government also said that in the post Wani killing 76 civilians and two policemen were killed in firing and other actions by security forces and mob violence. As many as 2,632 cases were registered by the police across Kashmir whereas 463 persons were arrested under the PSA. However, 145 of them were set free by courts, normally by quashing the PSA, and 318 are still in various jails across Kashmir, the sources said.