Jammu and Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) MLA Aijaz Ahmed Mir has triggered a huge row by describing Kashmiri militants as "martyrs".
Aijaz sympathised with the security personnel killed in the state, saying, "We feel sad when our security forces are martyred as well".
Mir on Thursday said that Kashmiri militants, who are killed in encounters are "martyrs".
Mir, who hails from a militancy-infested area, said the time has come to talk to the Hurriyat, militants and other stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir issue and end the violence and bloodshed in the region.
PDP legislator Aijaz said all kinds of killings, including those of militants, should stop, as "anybody who is a Kashmiri is a brother, including militants". "It is our collective failure", he said, adding that they are children, who have gone down the wrong track, and should be counselled and brought back.
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He added that he "also sympathized with the forces and parents of soldiers who were killed". It is glorifying terrorism, you are playing with fire... "How can they be someone's brother?". These are questions the BJP and PDP need to answer. "He should talk to separatists and militants in Kashmir too", he said.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir claimed the BJP has given the PDP the leeway to make such statements so that both could continue to enjoy power in the state.
Mir's statement comes a day after state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that her government has vowed to break the "vicious cycle" of youth taking up arms. In a stinging response, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "Terrorists and separatists are enemies of Kashmir, Kashmiris, development and peace".
Speaking to members of the press, Pir said that many militants active in the state are minors and are not aware of the consequences of their action.
The MLA also sought to strike a balance, claiming party leaders " also do not want security force men to die".