Centre agrees to ‘talks with all’ in Kashmir but remains non-commital on Afspa
The government agreed with political parties on Wednesday to continue talks with “all stakeholders” in Kashmir, including the separatists, but remained non-committal on the Opposition’s demand for reviewing a controversial act blamed for alleged excesses by security forces.india Updated: Sep 08, 2016 01:47 IST
The government agreed with political parties on Wednesday to continue talks with “all stakeholders” in Kashmir, including the separatists, but remained non-committal on the Opposition’s demand for reviewing a controversial act blamed for alleged excesses by security forces.
The Centre’s stand on talks was spelt out by home minister Rajnath Singh during a meeting of the all-party delegation which returned on Tuesday after a two-day visit to the Valley where more than 70 people have been killed in violent protests since July 9.
Singh also rejected reports about a possible crackdown on “some Hurriyat leaders”, Opposition leaders who attended the meeting said. The reports had quoted senior home ministry officials as saying the government action will include scaling down their security, seizing their passports and scanning their bank transactions.
A senior minister handling the Kashmir issue had earlier told some opposition leaders that the Centre was also mulling a group of political leaders to continue talks with the Kashmiri people. However, “the issue…was kept out of the meeting,” an opposition leader said.
Faced with demands from leaders like CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury for lifting the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the Valley, finance minister Arun Jaitley underlined how partial lifting of the law can hamper operations by security forces against militants.
Opposition parties in the Centre and rights activists have been demanding lifting Afspa from the state, alleging that security forces were violating human rights under the protection of the legislation. Afspa is in force in Kashmir and some states in the northeast.
Jaitley said if Afspa is lifted from civilian areas, the army’s hands will be tied during operations against militants.
A statement issued after the meeting called for shunning the path of violence and resolving “all issues through dialogue and discussion.”
“The members of the delegation expressed serious concerns of the prevailing situation in J-K. The members are of the opinion that there is no place for violence in a civilised society and there can be no compromise on issue of national sovereignty,” the statement read.
In the meeting, leaders also asked the government to enhance medical help for the hundreds of civilians injured during the two-month-long protests sparked by the killing of a militant commander.
In Srinagar, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the all-party meeting statement and said “engagement and reconciliation is the only way forward to end the stalemate and make peace, stability and prosperity a reality in the state and the region”.
Unfortunately, the separatist leadership missed the recent opportunity of engaging with the parliamentarians, she said, adding that “by shying away from talks, the separatist leadership is in the danger of being squarely blamed for holding up the resolution process”.
National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah, was however, critical of the visit, saying the all-party delegation week achieved “nothing” and there is “no sense of urgency” to control the situation.
“I’m struggling to find a single achievement that the all party delegation can lay claim to after visiting J&K. Nothing comes to mind as yet! (sic),” Omar tweeted.