| Azad: Peace promise
Srinagar, Nov. 2: Weeks after his Ramazan truce bubble burst, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today renewed his call to militants to hold fire.
“Militants and their supporters should stop violence until a solution to the Kashmir issue is arrived at during the third round table conference or in other fora,” Azad said on the first day of his second year in office. “Violence and talks cannot go together.”
But minutes after Azad’s call, militants struck in the heart of Srinagar, killing a BSF trooper.
The BSF men, who were patrolling the city, were shot at point-blank range. Constable Ashraf Khan died on the spot and his two injured colleagues were rushed to hospital.
At Baramulla, a former official of the special police force, Puneet Singh, fell to rebel bullets.
Last year, Azad was welcomed on his first day in office with a burst of violence. A suicide bomber had blown himself up in Srinagar, leaving several people dead.
Before reports of today’s bloodspill trickled in, Azad said militants were engaged in a “futile” exercise. “They should wait for the outcome of the third RTC (round table conference) or other meetings, which may yield a final solution to the Kashmir issue.”
“The kind of efforts in progress to resolve the Kashmir issue has never been undertaken in the past. The last time we heard about an RTC taking place to resolve an issue was during the time of Gandhiji.”
Azad had offered militants a ceasefire during Ramazan, but it failed to take off, though the Hizb-ul Mujahideen had indicated its willingness to respond positively.
“I had offered the Ramazan ceasefire because militants and separatists often blame us for not taking any initiative on Kashmir,” he said. “I want to tell them that both the Centre and the state government are neck deep (in efforts) to resolve the Kashmir conflict.”
Azad today rang in his first anniversary in the chief minister’s chair with a cultural show on the banks of the Dal Lake. But the cracks in the Congress-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alliance came to the fore.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti decided to give the programme a miss. Her party was represented by former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who was recently a bone of contention between Azad and the PDP for his proximity to the chief minister.