An all party delegation will visit Jammu and Kashmir, possibly over the weekend, in an attempt to reach out to the people of the state, it was decided on Wednesday at the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. At the meeting, Congress president Sonia Gandhi urged parties and the government to respect the “legitimate aspirations” of young Kashmiris.
Wednesday’s deliberations and the feedback from the all-party delegation’s visit would be used as inputs in the government’s evolving response to the situation, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.
Government sources said the delegation — the composition of which will be finalised by the parliamentary affairs ministry by Friday — would try to kick-start the political process. It will “meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion” during its two-day visit to Jammu as well as Kashmir.
“They (leaders of political parties) agreed the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations,” the PMO said in a release.
As expected, there was sharp division on any dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The ruling National Conference wanted the stringent provisions — which give the army powers to kill and enter homes at any time to search without warrants — to be toned down. The Peoples’ Democratic Party wanted its revocation.
But this demand did not have many supporters; the Samajwadi Party and RLD joined the BJP in its opposition.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said negotiations shouldn’t include dilution or partial withdrawal of AFSPA — a key component of the blueprint discussed on Monday by the Cabinet Committee (CCS) on Security — or any more autonomy to J&K.
Sonia noted that inimical forces within and beyond the state had been at work. “But we also must ask ourselves why is there so much anger?”
“We must give them (Kashmiri youth) hope, understand and respect their legitimate aspirations,” she said, calling for magnanimity and maturity in approach. “It cannot be too strongly said that words alone will not suffice”.
The CCS will meet again next week to consider measures and initiatives to build bridges with the state and reduce the trust deficit. The five-and-a-half-hour meeting began with the PM voicing distress over the violence — some orchestrated by certain groups, he said — but emphasising the need to restart dialogue. “We have to talk to each other,” he said, but stressed this could happen only when the violence ceased.
Union minister and NC leader Farooq Abdullah — whose son, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has been facing flak for the “governance deficit” in the state — did not speak at the meeting. But NC MP Mohd Shafi had a spat with opposition PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti when she commented on the CM’s extended stays in Delhi.