Rejoin democratic process, Sonia Gandhi tells separatists (Lead)

February 14th, 2009 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiSrinagar, Feb 14 (IANS) United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi Saturday asked separatists in Jammu and Kashmir to rejoin the democratic process, saying they should learn from the “massive people’s participation” during the recent assembly elections.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Srinagar International Airport here, Gandhi said: “Those sowing the seeds of hatred among members of different communities are actually friends of none.”

She said the people of Jammu and Kashmir had expressed faith in democracy through largescale participation in the November-December elections to the state legislature.

“Those following the path of violence must learn a lesson from people’s faith in democracy here,” she said, and asked the separatists to join the democratic process.

“Peace and democracy are the only means to progress and prosperity,” she said, adding that “the starting of the Srinagar-Dubai flight would open up avenues of employment and tourism for Kashmir”.

Gandhi also flagged off a train service from Budgam in central Kashmir to Baramulla district in north Kashmir.

The inauguration of a new state-of-the-art terminal has raised the status of the Srinagar airport to an international one. The first direct Srinagar-Dubai flight is scheduled for departure from here later Saturday.

Gandhi claimed that despite the global economic crisis, India had not been impacted so seriously because of the policies of the UPA government.

“We have, in fact, provided relief to the people by reducing the prices of (cooking gas). History is made or unmade because of the steps taken by us, and we must therefore be very careful while taking decisions,” she said.

Gandhi also hoped that the ruling National Conference (NC)-Congress alliance, headed by Omar Abdullah, would work for the prosperity of the people.

The new airport terminal, spread over 19,700 sq mt area, is made of glass and steel structures. The terminal is air-conditioned and centrally heated. It has escalators, public address systems, CCTVs for surveillance and flight display systems.

“There are 16 check-in counters. The airport can handle 500 domestic and 450 international passengers at one time,” said an official at the airport.

The number of aircraft parking bays has gone up from four to nine.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad were also present at the airport function.

Gandhi flagged off the Mazhom-Baramulla train through a satellite link by pressing a button.

The train service was earlier till Srinagar. It now connects north and south Kashmir - a 100 km stretch.

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