Indian home minister Rajnath Singh, who is on a two-day visit to the troubled northernmost Jammu and Kashmir state, said today that the government will propose a substitute to the controversial pellet guns in the wake of widespread criticism of the crowd-control device.
The use of pellet guns during protests has left thousands of Kashmiris blind amid the current unrest in the Valley. Singh had made a similar assurance last month when he said that government would look for non-lethal alternatives.
Singh also said that ministry of home affairs will soon set up a nodal agency that will look into complaints of Kashmiri youth across the country, Indian media reported.
"I had meetings with more than 20 delegations here. All want peace in Kashmir," he said mentioning that he has been meeting stakeholders during his two-day visit. He has also been driving through the roads in summer capital Srinagar to take stock of the situation.
Accompanied by union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and other officials, Singh met different wings of administration including security, health and maintenance of essential commodities for the people.
Singh's second visit this month, however, has been marked with fresh clashes between protesters and the security forces in Pulwara district. One youth was killed in the incident, taking the death toll in the more than a month-old Valley unrest to 66.
Sources said that Singh directed the heads of para-military forces to exercise maximum restraint while dealing with protesters while he appreciated their efforts in maintaining law and order in the Valley.
The home minister was told that essential commodities and health services were not a problem in the Valley.
The current unrest in Kashmir broke out 47 days ago following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8. The region has been marred by curfew and restrictions ever since.
Ahead of his Kashmir visit, Singh had said that "those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat (Kashmir s pluralist ethos, humanity and democracy) are welcome."
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti too said that 95 per cent people of the state don't want violence, they want peace. "We have to reach out to them," she said.
A delegation of opposition National Conference led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah too met the home minister and urged him to immediately ban use of pellet guns as a crowd control means in Kashmir.