"We didn't know chief minister Mehbooba Mufti will be present at the venue," said one of the slogan-shouting delegates who had poured out on the street in the middle of the programme. Another said they wouldn't have attended the programme had they known about the Chief Minister would be present at the Sher-e Kashmir International Convocation Center.
What pushed the government on the backfoot was that the event was one of the outreach programmes it organized as part of the Chief Minister’s efforts to reconnect with the masses. The “Umeed” scheme was launched to create and enhance livelihood of the rural women.
The Chief Minister later told the local media, "Women in large numbers were present, one of them fainted, that triggered the stampede”.
Her explanation drew jeers from her predecessor Omar Abdullah, who said she was “living in denial”. In a series of tweets, the National Conference chief said:
Ms Mufti has lately been trying to meet the people as part of her efforts to bring peace in the restive valley. In the aftermath of the five-month unrest in the state last year following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, the Valley has witnessed a renewed support for terrorists among the masses.
The army has advocated using a strong hand to deal with those supporting terror. Some sections of the security forces are even advocating Governor’s Rule to control the situation.
During her recent visit to Delhi, Ms Mufti had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the stalled dialogue process be started again to take forward Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s idea of “Kashmiriyat, jamhooriyat and Insaniyat”.