As an uneasy calm on the streets of Srinagar on Saturday raised hopes in the Valley and Delhi of sending the army back to their barracks by early next week, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a renewed bid to ensure that Monday’s all party meeting helps restore durable peace.
Abdullah wrote to People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti — who has declared her intention to stay away from Monday’s meet — to reverse her decision and join the government for a “comprehensive analysis” of the situation and lay a road map for a better future.
But PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said they would stick to their earlier stand. “What is the point of calling now when all measures have been used. The army was also called which is the last resort. There is no point in calling the meet now,” he said.
The chief minister’s efforts came around the same time that former chief minister and the Union New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah — who had been abroad — held meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram on his return. He later flew to Kashmir.
Abdullah’s meetings are learnt to have focused on resumption of the political process, a point that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security this week.
The Congress — which has backed Omar so far — joined the state’s efforts and decided to send a delegation to the Valley next week. The team will be led by Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and Congress general secretary in charge of the state, Prithviraj Chavan,
“It’s a tough situation and the coalition government is doing whatever it can to bring normalcy there,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, urging all stakeholders to “walk the extra mile” to restore peace.
The curfew was relaxed in the Valley, except Sopore and Pulwama, to allow people to offer prayers on the occasion of Shab-e-Meraj, a Muslim festival, as police cracked down on stone pelters and arrested 20 people.
Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continued his ‘civil disobedience program’. Thousands of people chanting, “we want freedom" led by the Mirwaiz first assembled at the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar’s Nawhatta before marching to a bazaar in the old city.