Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told Jammu and Kashmir opposition parties that a dialogue was "a must" for bringing about an end to the weeks-long unrest in the valley but any solution to the problem has to be “within the Constitution” of India.
The Prime Minister's statement indicates that the government may be considering some political initiative on Kashmir where the over-five weeks long agitation has left some 68 people dead in clashes between pro-freedom protesters and security forces.
At a meeting with a delegation of opposition parties from the state, Modi expressed “deep concern and pain” over the violence in Kashmir and said loss of lives in more than five weeks of unrest distressed him.
“Those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation. Whether the lives lost are of our youth, security personnel or police, it distresses us,” Modi said, according to an official statement.
“There has to be a dialogue and we need to find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem within the framework of the Constitution.”
Leaders of opposition parties led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah urged the Prime Minister for a political initiative to deal with the situation in the state.
Abdullah told media persons later that they told Modi that Kashmir was not an issue related to development or the lack of it.“
"It is a political issue and we told the Prime Minister that we need a political approach to deal with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir," Abdullah told IANS after the meeting.
"If we don't find a political solution to this, then every time we'll repeat the same mistake," he said.
Abdullah said the opposition leaders handed over a memorandum to the Prime Minister warning him against the "tried and tested formulations of dealing with the issue in Kashmir administratively rather than politically".
This "has further exacerbated the situation and created an unprecedented sense of disaffection and disenchantment -- especially among the youth," he said.
"We are of the firm opinion that the central government should waste no further time in initiating a credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to address the unrest."
State Congress chief G.A. Mir said their meeting with the Prime Minister may augur well for Kashmir. "The Prime Minister agreed that development isn't the only way out, indicating a thinking that a dialogue over Kashmir is being considered. We are hopeful that it will happen soon."
The meeting comes as the Kashmir Valley remains under strict curfew for the 45th day in a row. The valley has been on the boil amid violent clashes between stone-throwing protesters and security forces since the July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani.
Some 68 people have been killed in firing by security forces in the weeks of unrest. Thousands have been injured, mostly in pellet firing.
The delegation sought an "immediate ban on pellet guns" -- a dangerous mob control weapons that has blinded hundreds of people, including children, in Kashmir.
They also urged the Prime Minister "to advice relevant quarters against the policy of mass harassment, raids and arrests" in Kashmir.
"This has worsened an already volatile situation in the state and also goes against the values and principles of democracy."
The Jammu and Kashmir opposition leaders, including Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Yusuf Tarigami, have been in the capital for the last three days.
They have met President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, seeking their intervention in bringing about an end to the unrest that has crippled life in the restive valley since July 9 -- a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed.