Civilian killings must stop in Kashmir, forces should show restraint: Dineshwar Sharma

The government’s interlocutor on Kashmir on Wednesday appealed to the security forces to “show restraint” in the Valley and put an end to “civilian killings”, describing the recent spate of violence in the region as a “setback,” a report by Hindustan Time said.

“Civilian killings must stop. The security forces must show restraint and not resort to disproportionate firing,’’ HT quoted Dineshwar Sharma, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, saying in an interview.

“I was hoping for a better summer but violence has come as a setback. Amongst the districts in south Kashmir, Shopian is particularly alienated and angry. We must be sensitive while dealing with the people of Kashmir,’’ he added.

Sharma was appointed as a special representative by the Centre on October 23 to hold a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders, and has made several visits to Jammu and Kashmir, including one in late February to Shopian, where three civilians were killed by Army bullets on January 27 during a protest, and four were shot dead along with two militants on March 4.

After his first visit to the Valley on taking charge as the interlocutor, Sharma recommended the withdrawal of cases against first-time stone pelters. The decision was announced a few days later by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in November. However, the cases were withdrawn against nearly 4,000 stone pelters as a goodwill gesture, but the army has now questioned the decision. HT reported.

“The cases were withdrawn as a goodwill gesture but what goodwill are they showing? The stone pelting continues,” HT quoted army Chief General Bipin Rawat saying on February 23.

Matters between the army and the state government have come to a head in recent weeks over the naming of an army officer, Major Aditya (Kumar), who was leading a convoy that came under attack from stone pelters. Mufti announced a magisterial inquiry into the killing of civilians, but the Supreme Court has restrained the state police from probing the army saying, “He (Major Aditya Kumar) is an army officer, not a criminal,’’ said a report.

Sharma said he planned to go back to the troubled district and engage with young people there. HT quoted him saying “I will visit Shopian again, I feel very sad when I see Kashmir in trouble.’’

Several governments at the Centre have appointed interlocutors to engage with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The United Progressive Alliance government had similarly appointed a team of interlocutors led by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, after unrest in 2010, following the killing of three civilians in an alleged fake encounter in Machhil. The team’s report has still not been made public, HT reported.