Kashmir autonomy an option: PM

PM called upon people of J&K to give peace a chance.

New Delhi: In a major initiative to deal
with the unrest in Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said
tonight that the Centre was willing to consider autonomy for
the state within the ambit of the Constitution.

Reaching out the people of the state, Singh told a
meeting of representatives of various political parties from
the state here that if there was a consensus between them on
autonomy, the Centre would consider it within the ambit of the
Constitution.

"We are all servants of the Constitution. There are many
shades of opinion in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. I and
my senior ministers present here show our seriousness in
addressing the issues," he said.

Prime Minister said that he was aware of the alienation
of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that it had to be
removed. "Jammu and Kashmir residents must have a life of
self-respect and dignity," he emphasised. Noting that a "political solution" is the key to the
problem in Kashmir, Singh made it clear that nothing will be
done outside the framework of Constitution.

"The basic problem is political and there is a need to
focus on developmental aspects, recognising the diversity in
all the three regions of J&K," he said in his closing
remarks after a four-hour-long meeting with an all party
delegation from the state.

In his opening remarks while asking the people of Kashmir
to give peace a chance, the prime minister said he recognised
that "the key to the problem is a political solution that
addresses the alienation and emotional needs of the people." The Prime Minister in remarks telecast live to a
national audience unveiled a fresh initiative to address the
unrest in Kashmir and promised a sustained "internal and
external" dialogue. He, however, urged the people there to
"give peace a chance".

CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami told reporters after
the meeting that there was a need to bring Pakistan on board
and resolve Kashmir issue.

Asked whether there was an assurance from the Prime
Minister on holding talks with Pakistan, he said "what do you
mean by holding external dialogue. He means Pakistan and not
Nepal."

In his first public comments on the recent trouble in
the Valley that has resulted in the death of nearly 50 people,
Singh utilised the meeting to reach out directly to the youth
who are in the forefront of the current agitation.

The Prime Minister spoke of "great pain" caused to him
by the events in Kashmir and said, "I share the grief, the
sorrow and the sense of loss of every mother, every father,
every family and every child in Kashmir".

"Let us make a new beginning," he urged and said, " I
appeal to the youth to go back to their schools and colleges
and allow classes to resume. I ask their parents what future
is there for Kashmir if your children are not educated?"

At the same time, Singh made it clear that the cycle of
violence must now come to an end. It was the Government`s duty
to maintain law and order, and "we cannot allow the turmoil to
continue".

Singh spoke of the "challenging task" being performed by
the state police and other security forces, noting that many
of them had been seriously injured in the past few weeks.

Addressing the unemployment problem of the state, Singh
also announced setting up of an expert group under the
chairmanship of noted economist Dr C Rangarajan to formulate a
jobs plan for the state involving public and private sectors.

It will submit its report within three months.

Central Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, P
Chidambaram, S M Krishna and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jammu and
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah were present at the
meeting at the Prime Minister`s House. The state`s main
opposition PDP kept away.

Among those participating from the state included
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, CPM leader
Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Independent MLAs Ghulam Hasan Mir,
Congress leader Saif-ud-din Soz, BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta
and Panthers Party Chief Bhim Singh. The Prime Minister in remarks telecast live to a
national audience unveiled a fresh initiative to address the
unrest in Kashmir and promised a sustained "internal and
external" dialogue. He, however, urged the people there to
"give peace a chance".

CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami told reporters after
the meeting that there was a need to bring Pakistan on board
and resolve Kashmir issue.

Asked whether there was an assurance from the Prime
Minister on holding talks with Pakistan, he said "what do you
mean by holding external dialogue. He means Pakistan and not
Nepal."

In his first public comments on the recent trouble in
the Valley that has resulted in the death of nearly 50 people,
Singh utilised the meeting to reach out directly to the youth
who are in the forefront of the current agitation.

The Prime Minister spoke of "great pain" caused to him
by the events in Kashmir and said, "I share the grief, the
sorrow and the sense of loss of every mother, every father,
every family and every child in Kashmir".

"Let us make a new beginning," he urged and said, " I
appeal to the youth to go back to their schools and colleges
and allow classes to resume. I ask their parents what future
is there for Kashmir if your children are not educated?"

At the same time, Singh made it clear that the cycle of
violence must now come to an end. It was the Government`s duty
to maintain law and order, and "we cannot allow the turmoil to
continue".

Singh spoke of the "challenging task" being performed by
the state police and other security forces, noting that many
of them had been seriously injured in the past few weeks.

Addressing the unemployment problem of the state, Singh
also announced setting up of an expert group under the
chairmanship of noted economist Dr C Rangarajan to formulate a
jobs plan for the state involving public and private sectors.
It will submit its report within three months.

Central Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, P
Chidambaram, S M Krishna and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jammu and
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah were present at the
meeting at the Prime Minister`s House. The state`s main
opposition PDP kept away.

Among those participating from the state included
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, CPM leader
Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Independent MLAs Ghulam Hasan Mir,
Congress leader Saif-ud-din Soz, BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta
and Panthers Party Chief Bhim Singh.

-PTI

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