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Third Roundtable saw parties dissenting on various issues

The Kuka Paray's long-standing demand for representation in the J&K Assembly found favour from the unexpected quarters, reports Anil Anand.
By Anil Anand | None, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 25, 2007 11:22 PM IST

The third roundtable conference on Kashmir, which was held on Tuesday that went on for ten hours, saw fireworks too.

Chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the session not only had Kashmiri Pandit leaders and the BJP putting up stiff dissent but some red faces when uncomfortable queries were lobbed at the government over separatist Ali Shah Geelani's show of strength in Srinagar last week.

National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah and the Peoples Democratic Front MLA Usman Majid did some tough talking on the Geelani issue.

Abdullah, the sources said, questioned the motive behind "favourable" treatment being accorded to the separatist leader. "Are we Indians or Pakistanis," he reportedly asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A defiant Usman wondered as to why the state government allowed Geelani to hold such a show where objectionable slogans were raised against Singh and chief minister.

Ghulam Nabi Azad apart from unleashing anti-India propaganda. Usman was a known supporter of Kuka Parray who had played a significant role in turning the tide against the militants in the 1990s before becoming their target.

Objecting to the casual treatment given to the KP centric issues such as rehabilitation and their return to the Valley, Panun Kashmir leaders refused to be part of the joint statement. They objected to the absence of any "concrete proposals" for the displaced community's welfare.

Panun Kashmir chairman Ajay Chrangoo felt that though the conference had certain positives, but there was nothing specific for the KP's'. "While there is lot of emphasis on the rehabilitation of the families of militants, nothing specific came out either in the specialised groups' recommendation or in the conference itself," he said.

Another Panun leader Agnishekhar echoed similar views. He alleged that there were serious " omissions" on the KP front. "It is amazing that the perpetrators of violence and the victims are being weighed on the same scale," he said.

Notwithstanding their ire, the conference had certain surprises for them as well. The KP's long-standing demand for representation in the J&K Assembly found favour from the unexpected quarters.
Former Deputy Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzzafar Hussain Beigh suggested that possibility of amending the Constitution to reserve 3-4 seats for the community should be explored. Set up an exclusive university (Shardapeeth) for KPs in Kashmir, was his other suggestion.

Significantly, the specialised group on strengthening relations across the Line of Control, headed by former Foreign Secretary M K Rasgotra, has recommended opening of 10 new points on the LOC for more people-to-people contacts.

This includes the one between Kargil and Askardu. Although Pakistani establishment had earlier been touchy about opening up the Northern Areas, recently President Parvez Mussharf had expressed his willingness to open this road link.

The Rasgotra committee has also recommended that students from Pak Occupied Kashmir should be permitted to avail educational facilities in this part of J&K. Converting Kashmir into a free trade zone, is another suggestion mooted by the group.

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