For peace to return to Kashmir, students should first stop throwing stones at security forces on the streets and return to colleges and schools, the Supreme Court said.

Education is empowerment and only education will deliver them from the widespread unemployment and anger spilling out on the streets, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed orally.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, asked the stakeholders in Kashmir to “take two steps back” as a resolution could be initiated only if there are no stones hurled and pellets fired on the streets of Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association countered that security forces entered schools and universities and beat up students. “If they beat up the students, students will be on the streets. Throwing of stones is a reaction. The Centre has stopped talking to the people of Kashmir. The people want uninterrupted, unconditional and sincere dialogue,” the Bar’s counsel submitted.

The court said it was ready to set the stage for talks between stakeholders and influential public voices in Kashmir and the Centre.

But as the “first step forward”, the court insisted, the Bar Association, the petitioner in the case, should persuade these stakeholders to file undertakings in the court that they will abstain from violence.

Once these undertakings are filed, tentatively on May 9, the court will ask the government to pull back security forces for at least 15 days as peace is negotiated.

“Both sides need to take two steps back and address core issues. You cannot clap without both hands,” Justice Kaul observed.

“If you keep throwing stones and close schools, how will talks work out. You first talk. But if you are suggesting secession, nothing will happen. Talks should be within the framework of the Constitution,” Chief Justice Khehar said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi put his foot down saying the government cannot hold talks with separatist leaders. The Centre would “absolutely” not entertain any talks of ”azadi” with these leaders.

Mr. Rohatgi read out portions of an affidavit filed by petitioners suggesting that the route to peace in Kashmir would be through talks between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Rohatgi attacked the petitioner’s affidavit saying even the accession of Jammu and Kashmir was “controversial”.

“Our heart beats for the people of Kashmir. We strongly object to their argument that the entire State is subjected to State terrorism. Can they say that the election held recently was rigged?” Mr. Rohatgi asked.

Mr. Rohatgi asked who is stopping these people from meeting the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister. “Dialogues are to be initiated by political leaders and not in this court,” Mr. Rohatgi said.

At one point when the Bar Association said they had little influence over the separatist leaders and influential voices of Kashmir to persuade them to see the point of view of the court, Justice Chandrachud made it plain that having come to the court in the role of an interlocutor, they cannot now back out.

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