Integrate minds and hearts of 'integral part' Kashmir: Ghulam Nabi Azad

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not speaking in parliament about the month-long deadly unrest in the Kashmir Valley and urged the government to integrate hearts and minds of people of the "integral part of India" to solve problems there.

Azad initiated a debate in the Rajya Sabha over Kashmir that came after over a month of unrest which has left more than 55 people dead and thousands injured in the valley. 

The Leader of Opposition criticized Modi's absence from the house during the sensitive debate, saying "the Prime Minister is so close, yet so far".

"The Prime Minister reaches the parliament (complex) everyday at 10 a.m. He stays in his (parliament) office till 6 p.m. His room is barely a minute and a half from the Rajya Sabha," Azad said.

The Congress leader also lashed out at Modi for speaking on Kashmir at a rally in Madhya Pradesh and not in parliament, a day after the Prime Minister appealed for peace in the restive valley.

Azad expressed concern over the violence in Kashmir but stressed the government should endeavour to win hearts and minds of the valley people and stop using force, including pellet guns, against protesters.

"We always say Kashmir is an integral part of India. But integral part should not be on paper only. There should be integration of minds and hearts," Azad said.

"Kashmir has had curfew for over 30 days. Many have been killed. Thousands are injured," Azad said. 

"If something happens in Africa, you (Modi) tweet, Pakistan is an enemy nation, still you speak when something happens there. It is good to show sympathy with all. But the crown of India (Kashmir) is burning. You must have felt the heat on your head, if not the heart."

He asked the government not to see the valley as a mere law and order problem and called for an all-party meeting to discuss the issue. He also asked for a delegation to be sent to Kashmir to find a political solution to problems of the people there.

"Kashmir is a complex issue. Politics comes first, economics second, employment after that. If we talk about electricity, roads and water, and not about politics, it will be wrong."

A BJP MP from the state, Shamsher Singh Manhas, participating in the debate, was aghast over "everyone is speaking about Kashmir and not Jammu".

"Jammu and Kashmir is not about Kashmir only. It is Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh that make the state," Manhas said.

He said Jammu, which shares some 500 km of border with Pakistan, also had its share of problems. "The region has 55 percent of population in the state. Some seven lakh educated youth are employed. They could have also picked the gun. They could have also shouted for freedom," he said, adding the people in Jammu "have always believed in democracy". 

But in the Kashmir Valley, "it is a battle between nationalism and separatism“. "People in Kashmir are following separatist dictates," he said.
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