With no end in sight to the Amarnath agitation that has claimed 15 lives in 37 days, leaders of India’s diverse political parties agreed on peace and dialogue at a meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The government – which made it clear there was no question of removing J&K Governor NN Vohra as demanded by the BJP – agreed to suggestions that Amarnath pilgrims get the facilities they need.
<b1>Leaders of 38 political parties from across the political spectrum and all regions, including the PDP, the National Conference and the AIADMK were present.
“The meeting suggested immediate initiation of a dialogue that would facilitate the suspension of the agitation and its peaceful resolution,” announced Pranab Mukherjee, external affairs minister and the government’s political strategist.
Lila Karan Sharma, convenor of the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti that is leading the agitation, said he was ready to talk to an all-party panel. “We are not shying away from talks… but these should be meaningful and result-oriented,” he said. “Whether Vohra is recalled or not is of no concern to me,” Sharma said over phone from Jammu, scaling down from the group’s earlier position.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil said the dialogue process would start immediately at the level of the Governor or a central minister.
Violence flared in Jammu after the state government reversed its decision to give the Amarnath Shrine Board possession of a 100-acre plot of forest land to construct pre-fabricated huts for better facilities to the pilgrims for two months every year.
The PM spoke last, and came up with the idea of a joint appeal to douse the passions. Arun Jaitley of the BJP, which has been sympathetic to the cause of the agitators, said it was a “good beginning”.
The only confrontation was outside 7, Race Course Road when Uma Bharti and her supporters, miffed at being not invited, tried to gatecrash.
With Shekhar Iyer and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi