Wednesday, September 15, 2010


15 Sept 2010


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: The Government declared to go ahead with measures and initiatives to reach out to Kashmiris on the basis of deliberations at an all-party meeting here on Wednesday. It also pledged to evolve further response based on the feedback from the all-party delegation the meeting decided to send to Srinagar to meet "all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion."

The meeting, however, did not throw up any immediate solution to the ongoing protests and violence in the valley for the past three months that is seen as a strategic shift from the armed struggle witnessed since 1990 with Pakistan-sponsored militants. Everyone agreed that all steps be taken that end the violence.

An official release summing up over 5-hour long discussions in the PM's House said various party leaders agreed that "the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations."

It was the unanimous response to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer in his opening remarks for "dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence." Home Minister P Chidambaram put it in further focus, saying "within Constitution, we will do all to honour the Kashmiris' aspirations."

BJP RESERVATION: Though the government did not broach the issue of amendments in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or its revocation from some areas, the Bhartiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena made it clear that they were opposed to any dilution of the Act that weakens the Army and the central forces in handling situation in the valley.

The BJP delegation to the meeting comprised Lal Krishna Advani, party president Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad assured a "constructive cooperation" to any dialogue held within the framework of the Indian Constitution and said the BJP will join the all-party delegation going to Srinagar.

MEHBOOBA STAND: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition in J&K that was so far boycotting the government-sponsored meetings in Srinagar and Delhi for resolving the tangle, came on board with its president Mehbooba Mufti attending the meeting and demanding an unconditional dialogue, with neither side slapping any conditions, but after release of all arrested youths and stoppage of the crackdowns by the security forces.

She also made it clear that "cosmetic changes" in AFSPA will not meet the aspirations of Kashmiris, wanting real and concrete steps. She told reporters AFSPA was discussed in the meeting and it is now for the government to take decision. She said she appealed to all assembled leaders to rise above political interests, look at the Kashmir problem from humanitarian angle and not make a prestige issue in yielding to justified demands. Kashmir has been turned into a jail and people are being killed mercilessly, she added.

Mehbooba and J&K PCC chief Saifuddin Soz sitting side by side at the meeting and seen exchanging views time and again sent a clear signal of a new rapprochement between their parties posing trouble for the National Conference (NC) of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. His father Dr Farooq Abdullah, who attended the meeting with NC MP Mohd Shafiq, however, said he was "not disappointed" from what transpired in the meeting and that he was happy that the PM priased Omar's initiatives in tackling the situation.
SONIA RECIPE: Sonia Gandhi stressed that everyone should ask why the Kashmiri youths are in anger and suggested that all should be "magnanimous and mature in our approach" in addressing the Kashmiri youths' legitimate aspirations. The problem should be solved setting aside ideological and political differences, she added. 

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