ALI MOHAMMAD SAGAR, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Jammu and Kashmir, told Frontline in an interview that it was unfortunate that the killings took place.
The situation seems to have gone out of control, how do you see it?
It is not out of control, but [it is] not good. We understand it is bad. But we need to address it slowly, and it cannot be changed in one go.
But has the government done enough to reach out to victims' families?
It is unfortunate that the killings took place, but we have time and again expressed sorrow and grief and extended solidarity with them. The fact is that Ministers moved in different districts and held meetings with civil society. The Chief Minister held four meetings and we need to have more. But it will take time to heal the wounds. The Cabinet has sanctioned compensation and announced a judicial commission to inquire into the killings.
In the past such commissions have not had any impact.
No, this time it is time-bound. It has to give its report in three months and a former High Court judge heads it.
Initially, the government accused the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the PDP and others for creating the trouble. Now the Chief Minister says it is leaderless.
The Chief Minister never said it was the LeT. And saying it is leaderless has a context. He said it in view of the angry youth not responding to appeals by [Syed] Salahuddin, the head of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and other separatists.
Why did the situation deteriorate to this extent under an elected government?
One thing is very clear, that Kashmir is a core issue; it is a dispute that has been there since 1947. During the past 20 years it has been recognised by India and Pakistan. Prime Ministers have held meetings with the Hurriyat Conference, and it was only on August 4 that the Home Minister said that there has to be seriousness on the issue. I believe there is a trust deficit and that this has not been addressed sincerely.
There seems to be a disconnect between the government and the people?
There is no disconnect, but the problem is there. I visited downtown Srinagar three times during this period. But if you mean we do not mingle with them, yes, there is a problem since people are angry and their anger is genuine.
What should be done to bring it under control?
There are two aspects to it. One is that India and Pakistan should start a dialogue on Kashmir and simultaneously there should be a dialogue between New Delhi and Srinagar. There has to be an effort to create an atmosphere that can help bring peace.But can reinforcements improve the situation?
Actually, there was a deficiency of forces to maintain law and order. But it needs a political approach. We had an all-party meeting in which decisions were taken, which need to be implemented so that people know that the government is serious. All the political parties should rise above political interests and support the government in restoring peace.
There is an impression that senior National Conference leaders are not being taken into confidence when major decisions are taken.
I do not think so. Both Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah consult senior leaders. Recently, Dr Abdullah formed a core group of the party, which advises both the party and the government. But we need to introspect because there may be drawbacks.Shujaat Bukhari