People in the Kashmir valley keenly watched on television the last journey of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The entire political leadership, including the separatists, paid rich tributes to him for being the first and the only Prime Minister to “understand the pain and sufferings of the Kashmiris”. The late PM was remembered for trying his best to find a durable solution to the Kashmir issue.

The sincerity Vajpayee showed towards solving stalemate with Pakistan had made him the most respected PM in Kashmir. “He was the only hope for a settlement for the people of Kashmir and will remain the symbol of hope for us. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi only repeated from Red Fort the three magic words of Vajpayee to settle the Kashmir dispute,” said Muhammad Aslam, a prominent shopkeeper at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Many others on the streets of Srinagar expressed regards for Vajpayee and most of them were of the view that both India and Pakistan can only pick-up the threads from the Vajpayee years to settle the Kashmir dispute.

Mirwiaz Umar Farooq said that his demise was a loss for the people of Kashmir as he was a rare Indian leader with the intention to find a humanitarian resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Mirwaiz said that Vajpayee looked for a settlement of the dispute under the huge ambit of humanity. Another Hurriyat leader, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat said that Vajpayee had a grand vision not only for India and Pakistan, but for entire South Asia.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that Vajpayee understood the pain of people of J&K and he broke all the false barriers for Indo-Pak friendship and for the Kashmir settlement. She said that unfortunately the current leadership of the BJP has failed to walk the talk on Kashmir under the ambit of insaniyat (humanity).

Dr Farooq Abdullah said that he had a lot of trust on him. He said that Vajpayee introduced him during the Agra-summit to Pervez Musharraf as the third party to the dispute of Kashmir. Farooq also lamented that the current leadership of BJP has failed to follow the vision of Vajpayee on Kashmir.

Professor Saif-ud-Din Soz, who had voted against the Vajpayee government during a no-trust vote on 17 April 1999, said that although he had voted against Vajpayee, the latter talked to him as warmly as ever when they met a couple of days later. He said that Vajpayee never took any political difference as a personal onslaught. Kashmir Civil Society paid rich tributes to Vajpayee and many of them said that had he been re-elected as PM in 2004, Kashmir dispute might have been resolved.

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