Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today claimed that the security forces were unaware of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani‘s presence at the scene of the July 8 encounter. “How can one know everything about every encounter?” Mehbooba asked. “As far as I know, what I heard from the police and the army, who said they only knew that there were three militants inside the house but did not know who they were,” she said.
The chief minister told reporters that had the security forces known about Wani’s presence inside the house in Kokernag area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, it would have been possible to keep the situation “from turning to what it is today.”
“I feel if they knew, perhaps we would not have such a situation when the overall situation in the state was improving, so it could have been a chance,” she said. The police and intelligence agencies are saying that they did not know who was there, she said.
The chief minister said the government did not get enough time to make arrangements to contain the situation, unlike when Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013. “When Afzal Guru was hanged, (then chief minister) Omar (Abdullah) knew, so he made all the arrangements before-hand. We knew nothing and we came to know suddenly. But, despite that, we tried to impose curfew so that children do not come out,” she said.
Violence has rocked the Valley since July 8, when Wani was killed in an encounter, leaving 47 people dead. At least 5,500 people, including 3,000 security personnel, have also been injured.
Mehbooba said an atmosphere should be created in the state for peace dialogue and the government would do “everything” to provide relief to the people affected by the violence. “An atmosphere should be created in Jammu and Kashmir where there is dialogue, transparency like in (former Prime Minister Atal Behari) Vajpayee’s time when a peace process was started and there was ceasefire with Pakistan,” she said.
On the use of pellet-guns, Mehbooba said that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said the government would seriously rethink its use as a crowd-control measure. “I want to say that those who lost their life, who provoked them to enter the camps is another question, but our endeavour will be to not let the sacrifices go waste of those innocent children of 12, 14 or 16 years of age, who were hoodwinked into entering camps or police stations. They are used now but no one looks at them afterwards,” she said.
The chief minister said there are some elements who create trouble in the Valley deliberately. “Today is the foundation day of our party – the PDP – and the main aim of forming the party was to have reconciliation in Jammu and Kashmir, better relations between countries, to have dialogue, creation of peace, movement of people (across the borders) and to remove the difficulties of the people.
“But unfortunately, there are some elements, who were waiting for the spring, for the tourism and development to start and then to do something to create trouble and worsen the situation to have strikes,” she said. She said that the people of Kashmir have understood that they have gained nothing from strikes.
“I feel people understand that many youth have lost their lives in the past 30 years, there have been strikes and curfews, so many buildings have been burnt, but a Kashmiri has not gained anything except the opening of Muzaffarabad road in (her father and former chief minister) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s time,” she said.
Unfortunately, that peace process did not move forward from 2005, Mehbooba said. “Today, the alliance that we have with the BJP, it is the same peace process which began with Sayeed and Vajpayee to improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.