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'Situation in J&K 'less serious' than portrayed'

delhi Updated: Aug 30, 2008 17:14 IST

PTI
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Even as curfew and protests continue in Jammu and Kashmir following the Amarnath land row, the Centre feels the situation in the state is "far less serious" than "portrayed" and normalcy should return within "a week to 10 days".

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan refused to agree that the situation in Kashmir is similar to 1990 as is being suggested by various sections.

"I think the (situation is) far less serious than what is being portrayed but at the same time certainly something that we are very unhappy about," he said on Karan Thapar's 'Devil's Advocate' programme on CNN-IBN.

"I mean people have started comparing it with the 1990s and what not. Certainly the situation is nowhere around that," Narayanan said.

His comments came even as curfew continued to be imposed in Kashmir for the seventh day after a series of protests spearheaded by separatist leaders.

The National Security Adviser, however, conceded that the recent developments had eroded the signs of improvement in situation in the state.

"What is causing us concern is that four years of improvement in the situation, (we) believed that we have reduced levels of alienation, (there were) substantial signs of normalcy in the state. People had forgotten about issues," he said.

"No major concern other than day-to-day problems of living, better electricity, internet connection etc. Suddenly (these) seem to have been sort of pushed into the background and mobs have come out onto the street," he noted.

Narayanan said blockade of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway produced certain "concerns" among people in the Valley but there are visible signs of improvement in the situation and normalcy should return in the state within a week to 10 days.

On the upcoming holy month of Ramazan, he said the government will have to do "relaxation of various kinds and various purposes so normalcy should be round the corner."

"We are hopeful that this could be achieved in the next one week to 10 days," he said.

The National Security Adviser said the government was trying to pacify the agitators in Jammu so that they don't block the highway.

"In the cold comfort I would say the fact of the matter is that the concern about the blockade could have brought so many people out onto the street is a matter of concern for us.

"That is why we are placing so much emphasis on reducing the agitation in the Jammu region because as long as that agitation persists, the danger of the likelihood of the crowd coming onto the National Highway (will remain)", he said.

Asked whether the government agrees that there was a blockade of the highway considering that there have been differing versions, he said "For a day and a half, there were some discrepancies."

He said the truck traffic had dropped. "If there was let us say 100 trucks going, it came down to 15 to 20 for a day and a half and today it is back to about 85 to 90."

Commenting on the Hurriyat Conference's claim of being the representative of people of the state, Narayanan said the amalgam was not the "principal voice" in the Valley.

Asked whether a mood for secession is brewing in the state, the National Security Adviser disagreed.

He said reference to the Amarnath land issue as "transfer" of land, which triggered the agitation, was wrong and should have been avoided.

"I think what really -- there was an agitation over the issue of the what was wrongly referred to as handing over of land or diversion of land when actually (it was not), it was not necessary, it was an uncalled for...Mistake."

Narayanan also insisted that police was not involved in killing of the Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz.

He claimed that there was "concern" among the Hurriyat after the killing of the leader as they also probably knew police was not behind it.

He said Aziz was shot in the back while police was in the front during the Hurriyat-led "march to Muzaffarabad'.

"This is a concern even among the Hurriyat and others saying that who is now amongst us who is trying to eliminate some of us," he said.

Asked specifically whether Hurriyat knows that police did not kill him, he said "yeah, they will never admit it I suppose, but the fact of the matter is that it was certainly not the police. He was shot in the back."

Asked who could be behind the killing of the Hurriyat leader, he refused to answer, saying "You will know at the right time, I presume and assure, of who it is or which group is responsible."

When asked whether he was pointing fingers at Pakistan in connection with Aziz's killing, Narayanan said the government does not have any facts about it.

"No, we have no fact at the moment about A or B or C. What we are clear at this moment is that it was not the police...There are lot of things, circumstances... The fact of the matter is that he was not a martyr to the cause that is being made out to be."

He said had the police been able to do a postmortem of the body, then facts could have been much "clearer".

"They took the body away before there was a chance for postmortem. Then the fact would have been much clearer," Narayanan said.

Justifying the government's crackdown in Kashmir, he said initially the government allowed movement of the protesters but when the situation deteriorated, it had to resort to certain restrictions.

"There was a period Muzzafarabad Chalo, then there was a the sort of one or two other bandhs relating to the funeral processions. First we allowed a lot of movement across. There was no effort by the administration to interfere with that ..And a new issue comes up all the time.

"When the Lal Chowk Chalo came up and the feeling was that now these people are moving from what could be concerns worries and problem into really a problem of trying to build up other...Region thats when the crackdown took place."