Govt reaches out to separatists in Kashmir

Wanting to "win the hearts and minds" of the people of Kashmir, the government today sought to reach out to separatists and asked them to participate in a dialogue which it intends to resume.

New Delhi: Wanting to "win the hearts and
minds" of the people of Kashmir, the government on Friday sought
to reach out to separatists, including hardline Hurriyat
leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and asked them to participate in
a dialogue which it intends to resume.

As the Opposition slammed the handling of the situation in
the valley by the Centre and the Omar Abdullah government,
Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the
Kashmir problem was "unique" and required "unique" solutions
in which all sections will have to be taken on board.
He said the Centre was keen on fulfilling its promises,
including on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act
(AFSPA) and reduction of security personnel in the state,
depending on the situation there.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be receiving an
all-party delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, possibly next
Monday, and plans to have a meeting with leaders of parties in
Parliament, he said responding to clarifications sought on his
statement on Kashmir unrest made on Wednesday.

The Home Minister said Pakistan appeared to have changed
its strategy on fomenting trouble in the valley as it seemed
to be now relying on "civilian unrest" for "dividends".

Noting that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India in
"unique circumstances", he said the state has a "unique
problem" and requires a "unique solution".

Chidambaram appealed to all sections to put an end to the
cycle of violence and said, "We have to put our heads together
to find a solution to the unique problem".

Contending that "it is important to win the hearts and
minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir", he said, "We will
resume the political process. The answer to the problem lies
only through the political process, only through dialogue."

He said it was his intention to "do everything possible to
resume the quiet dialogue" which he undertook with the
moderate Hurriyat leaders before it got interrupted on
December 4, 2009 after an assassination bid on one them --
Fazl-ul Haq Qureshi.

Referring to Geelani`s statement against stone-pelting,
he said "if it marks a shift of his stand" it should be
welcomed and that he should also come for dialogue.
"I will resume the political process... I have impressed
upon all interlocutors that I am willing to resume the quiet
dialogue. We have to find courage that allows to hold
dialogue. We have to get on," he said and "sincerely hoped"
that the separatist leaders, including Geelani, would come
forward for talks.

Earlier, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the
situation in Kashmir was "slipping out of control" and "any
concession made at this stage will further dilute the

Opposing autonomy and repeal of AFSPA, Jaitley said there
should be no "knee-jerk and panic reaction".

The BJP wondered whether the special status to the state
had led to any integration of its people with the country or
given rise to separatism.

He attacked the Omar Abdullah government, saying it "has
increasingly got alienated from people within the valley" and
the Chief Minister was "getting alienated from his own party
and allies."

Targetting Chidambaram, the BJP leader said the "quiet
diplomacy" begun by him had not yielded results.

Several members like Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), D Raja
(CPI), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) and Saifuddin Soz (Congress)
also expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir.

"We will pick up threads, reactivate the political
process so that a solution can be found with equity, justice
and honour," Chidambaram said.

He said the immediate priority at the moment was to
restore peace in Kashmir as no government can allow law and
order to collapse.

At the same time, the Centre would like to reduce the
presence of security forces in the state if the situation
improves as was done last year.

"If the situation warrants, we may have to send more
forces. But if the situation warrants, we may withdraw
forces," Chidambaram said.
Talking about the situation in Kashmir since 2004, he said
there were times when youth there were demanding IITs and
IIMs. "Unfortunately, those voices have been muted by voices
of `azadi` (freedom). I hope it is a passing phase and we will
again hear those voices (for IITs and IIMs)."

The Home Minister said he hoped Kashmiris would again say
that their destiny lies with India and they want to be part of

Disagreeing with some members that the security personnel
had used excessive force, Chidambaram said the armed forces
have acted with "great degree of restraint" although 1000
personnel suffered injuries in "raining" stones.

"We will continue to advise the security forces to
exercise restraint," he said.

The Home Minister said the current situation demands a
"firm action" by security forces along with the state
government reaching out to the people.

"I think, some lessons have been learnt. The Jammu and
Kashmir government is reaching out to the people. The Chief
Minister has visited the injured in hospital," he said.


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