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All party delegation meets different shades of opinion

india Updated: Sep 20, 2010 20:33 IST

PTI
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Demands ranging from restoration of autonomy to withdrawing all security forces from Jammu and Kashmir were made to the all party delegation headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram as top leaders of PDP and the separatist factions kept away.

But small teams of the delegation reached out to the separatists by meeting their leaders at their residence where
they were given their frank views.

The 42-member delegation that included BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury
and Gurudas Dasgupta embarked on a two-day visit to the state to assess the ground situation against the backdrop of
unabated unrest that has claimed over 100 lives in the last three months.

There has also been a strong demand for withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act from NC, PDP
and other sections in the state.

At the outset, Chidambaram promised the people of the state that their future, honour and dignity are secure as part
of India.

"We hope and believe that the honour, dignity and future of Kashmiris are secure as part of India," he said promising a
patient hearing to the people of Kashmir.

The delegation met representatives of mainstream political parties like the ruling National Conference and Congress and opposition PDP besides that of trade associations.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti chose not to meet the delegation but sent a 15-member team which asked the Centre to
come out with "out of box solutions" for resolving the Kashmir issue. Mehbooba accused the state government of repressive
measures and trying to hijack the delegation.

The National Conference team which was headed by state Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather demanded restoration of
autonomy that existed prior to 1953 as the best solution to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The moderate faction of Hurriyat and JKLF sent a joint memorandum to the delegation demanding setting up of Kashmir
committees in India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.

Hardline Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani neither went to meet the delegation nor sent any memorandum. Five
members of the delegation including Yechury and Asaduddin Owaisi went to his residence where the 80-year old leader
bluntly aired his separatist views.

Geelani told them normalcy cannot be restored in Jammu and Kashmir unless the security forces are withdrawn and New Delhi recognises Kashmir as a dispute.

"Discuss the question of Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute. It is not an integral part of India," he said when Yechury
pleaded for restoration of normalcy with the separatist leader who has been one of the key players in the three-month long agitation by issuing periodic calendars of protests.