All-party meet appeals for calm in Jammu and Kashmir (Lead)

August 7th, 2008 - 12:06 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) An all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday appealed for peace in a desperate bid to end Jammu and Kashmir’s worst communal divide in six decades amid indications that land may be allotted to the Amarnath shrine board for the welfare of pilgrims. “We are not ruling out the possibility of transferring land,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at the conclusion of the all-party meeting that was attended by representative of 36 political parties, including all the major ones from Jammu and Kashmir.

While all political parties and the government stressed on dialogue and peace to avert communalisation of the situation in the state, Mukherjee ruled out the recall of Governor N.N. Vohra as has been demanded by Hindu organisations in the Jammu region.

According to Mukherjee, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad briefed the meeting “about the facilities created presently and proposed for the pilgrims of the Amarnath yatra”.

“The government agreed that all the necessary facilities for the Amarnath pilgrims would be provided,” Mukherjee said while reading out from a prepared statement, adding that the meeting called for initiating a dialogue to defuse the simmering anger in the state.

The prime minister convened the all-party meeting in the wake of the violent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir for over two months now following the Amarnath shrine land row. The allotment of 40 hectares of land to the shrine board had angered the Muslim-majority Valley and the revocation of the order sparked violent protests in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

“The meeting felt it was imperative that communalisation of the situation should be prevented at all costs as this would adversely impact on the secular fabric of the nation,” Mukherjee said while reading from the statement.

“Leaders of all parties present agreed that the situation was serious and that immediate remedial action was called for.

“There was unanimity among all those present that the first step was the restoration of peace and normalcy,” he said.

“The meeting decided to make a joint appeal for the restoration of normalcy and an early return of peace in affected areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The meeting was of the unanimous view that an environment must be created so that the agitation could be suspended and the issues resolved through the process of dialogue,” the minister added.

“The meeting suggested immediately initiating the process of a dialogue that would facilitate the suspension of the agitation and its peaceful resolution.”

Thirty-nine political parties were invited for the meeting at the prime minister’s official residence here that started at 4.30 p.m. and continued till 8.15 p.m.

Three parties - Tamil Nadu’s MDMK, the Kerala Congress and the Sikkim Democratic Front did not attend.

Answering a question, Mukherjee said BJP representatives Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Jaswant Singh were “supportive” during the meeting.

Mukherjee also ruled out the recall of Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra that has been demanded by Hindu organisations in the Jammu region.

Asked whether an all-party delegation would visit the state, Mukherjee said: “Various suggestions have come and whenever anyone would go, you will come to know of it.”

Asked whether talks would be held with the people of the state, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said: “It will happen soon.”

Apart from former Kashmir chief minister Azad, the other leaders from the state who spoke extensively during the meeting were Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party.

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