29/07/2016 10:50 AM IST | Updated 29/07/2016 4:12 PM IST

While Centre Calls Burhan Wani A Terrorist, Mehbooba Mufti Says She 'Would Have Saved Him'

"These children, who have gone, I promise you I will not let their sacrifice go waste."

Danish Ismail / Reuters
A demonstrator hurls a stone towards Indian police during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir, July 28, 2016.

The Centre's rhetoric on Kashmir right now seems to be in direct conflict with the public stand of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the political ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told reporters on Thursday that she would have spared Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander whose death has given new life to the separatist movement in the volatile region. There's this one small thing -- Wani was declared a terrorist by the government of India.

Forty-seven people have died and at least 5,500, including 3,000 security personnel, have been injured in violent clashes between locals and security forces during protests after Indian troops on July 8 shot and killed Wani. Hundreds of mourners defied curfew to turn up for Wani's funeral in his hometown of Tral. Protestors came into direct confrontation with jittery forces, pelting bricks and taking up arms, leading to an army response that is being seen as excessive.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh on July 18 told Parliament that it is not Pakistan's place to interfere in internal matters of India when "a terrorist gets killed," making the government's stand on terrorism clear.

In a statement, Vikas Swarup, Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said the "continued glorification of terrorists belonging to proscribed terrorist organisations makes it amply clear where Pakistan's sympathies continue to lie." The MEA statement was in direct response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif "condemning" India for declaring Wani a terrorist.

However, speaking at the 17th foundation day of the PDP, Mufti took a very different stand, one perhaps in line with its party's policy on separatists, but could be seen as problematic by the Centre.

"These children, who have gone, I promise you I will not let their sacrifice go waste," she said. The children she is referring to, have been criticised severely by nationalists over the years as stone-throwers who have endangered the lives of security forces.

"Security agencies say they suspected three militants were hiding without knowing who they were. Had I known about him (Wani), I would have given him a second chance in the wake of ongoing economic activity, improving situation and booming tourism," Mufti said.

Mufti's comments come even as her government is struggling to quell protests that have gone of for 20 days.

"If they (security forces) knew, perhaps we would not have such a situation when the overall situation in the state was improving, so it could have been a chance," she told reporters.

Opposition National Conference's Provincial President Nasir Wani immediately termed the Chief Minister's comments as doublespeak, saying was aware of the operation and had also rewarded the officials who led it. Additional Director General of Police S M Sahai also told reporters that the CM was aware about the operation.

Mufti said the government did not get enough time to make arrangements to contain the situation, unlike when Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013.

"When Afzal Guru was hanged, (then chief minister) Omar (Abdullah) knew, so he made all the arrangements beforehand.

We knew nothing and we came to know suddenly. But, despite that, we tried to impose curfew so that children do not come out," she said.

(With inputs from PTI)