NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi must act quickly to douse the fires of unrest in Kashmir, where over 50 civilians have died and many have been seriously injured when security forces opened fire on protesters last month, the Indian leader’s political foes and allies said on Monday.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, an ally of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday.

“I am hopeful that PM Modi will take this as an opportunity to initiate dialogue with people in J&K to address their problems. There is a need to take the same initiative of winning hearts of J&K people, which was taken during Vajpayee ji’s tenure,” she was quoted by The Indian Express as saying.

She also said that the process of dialogue with the people of Kashmir could improve the situation in the Valley. “I believe there is a need to heal wounds of people, to initiate dialogue with the people of J&K. These are our own people. If process of dialogue with J&K people can improve situation in Valley, we should do it.”

Ms Mufti said that Jammu and Kashmir could become a bridge between India and Pakistan, if a proper dialogue process is initiated.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Congress party’s Ghulam Nabi Azad said that independent India had never seen the imposition of a curfew for such a long period in any area. He wanted the prime minister to make a statement on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the entire country was eager to know what his government was doing.

“We want to awaken this government...we feel that the government and the prime minister are like silent spectators as the situation keeps deteriorating,” Mr Azad told the house.

The Congress party on Monday gave a notice in Rajya Sabha over the ongoing situation in held Kashmir. The notice comes a couple of days after Mr Azad wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Modi urging him to ‘break his silence’ over the issue.

On Sunday, Mr Azad had justified his letter and said that it was hard to believe there was a government at the centre because of the ‘indifference’ they have shown towards the Kashmir issue.

“We had raised the Kashmir issue in the Rajya Sabha, and thereafter, there was a whole-day discussion in the Lok Sabha as well, but the prime minister did not speak even a word in either houses and neither expressed his solidarity with the people of Kashmir. It has created widespread disappointment across the nation, and especially in Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr Azad told ANI.

Kashmir has witnessed curfews and pitched battles between civilians and Indian forces since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with Indian forces last month.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2016