Parties favour Kashmir talks, divided over AFSPA
The all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday decided to send a delegation of political leaders to the state to assess the ground situation but failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of withdrawal or dilution of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The five-and-a-half hour meeting, during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L K Advani and leaders of other parties presented their views, however, was unanimous over the need for internal dialogue within the framework of Indian Constitution.
There was sharp division on AFSPA, whose revocation was demanded by PDP and NC but opposed by BJP and some other parties.
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Image: Dr Singh is flanked by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Defence minister AK Antony (on the left) and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (on the right)
'Some violence is orchestrated by certain groups'
At the meeting, Dr Singh and other leaders voiced distress and concern over the continuing violence in the state and the loss of life.
Setting the tone, Dr Singh said the government was willing to talk to anybody or any group, which adopts peaceful means but asserted that it could not happen till the end of violence, some of which is "orchestrated by certain groups".
A statement issued at the end of the marathon meeting said the leaders agreed that the Indian Constitution provides ample scope to "accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations."
Image: Leader of the Opposition LK Advani at the meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
All-party delegation would go to Kashmir
Accordingly, it was decided that all-party delegation would be sent to Jammu and Kashmir, dates for which were not announced immediately.
"The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion. The visit of the all-party delegation would be facilitated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir," the statement said.
"The Government will take into account the deliberations at today's meeting while considering measures and initiatives to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir," it said, adding the feedback received from the all-party delegation would form an important input into the Government's evolving response on various issues relating to the state.
Image: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav with BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari and Advani, at the meeting
Parties divided over AFSPA
During the meeting, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, whose party is the main opposition in Jammu and Kashmir, favoured immediate revocation of AFSPA and withdrawal of armed forces from civil areas and release of political prisoners and "innocent detenues".
National Conference, which was represented by its chief Farooq Abdullah, also sought revocation of AFSPA, at least partially, failing which amend it to make it "humane".
The Left parties and LJP supported the demand of the parties from the state.
However, parties like BJP, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party and RJD opposed any such move, saying nothing should be done to demoralise the forces.
Image: Kashmiri leaders at the meeting
'There is ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand'
Reading out a statement issued at the end of the all-party meeting, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said: "Leaders of various political parties who attended today's meeting made valuable suggestions on ways and means to resolve the vexed issues that face us in Jammu and Kashmir."
"They agreed that the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations."
Emerging from the all-party meeting on Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said all parties should rise above their "political interests" and find a solution to the crisis.
"People are suffering and getting killed. Kashmir has been converted into a jail. So all the political parties and the leadership of the country should rise above their political interests and come together. Let us all join hands and find a solution to the complex Kashmir problem," she said.
Mehbooba said PDP demanded that there should be an unconditional dialogue from both Centre and the separatist leaders as there should be some "real and concrete" measures to solve the issue and not "cosmetic" ones.
"We asked the Prime Minister to go for an unconditional dialogue because we did not put any condition and then move forward. We also said that all the youth who have been arrested under Public Safety Act should be released," the PDP President said.
Image: Mehbooba with Saifuddin Soz