Kashmir stone-pelters to be freed, unified command to take call on AFSPA (Lead)

September 25th, 2010 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi/Srinagar, Sep 25 (IANS) Reaching out to the people of the violence-hit Kashmir, the central government Saturday announced that a group of interlocutors will be appointed to hold dialogue on the Kashmir issue and youths arrested in the recent stone-pelting incidents will be freed soon.
Compensation of Rs.5 lakh will also be paid to the families of those killed in the violence and the state government has been asked to convene a meeting of the Unified Command - comprising the chief minister, the home minister and senior army, police and security officers - to decide on deployment of security forces in the Valley and on the future of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram made the announcements after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) here, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The CCS decisions were made on the assessment of the 39-member all-party delegation which visited Jammu and Kashmir recently, he said.

“An eminent person will head the group of interlocutors,” Chidambaram said, adding it will begin the “process of a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, including political parties and groups, youth and student organisations, civil society organisations and other stakeholders”.

Several other measures to defuse violence and provide relief to the victims were announced by the home minister.

“The centre will advise the state government to immediately release all students and youth detained or arrested for stone pelting or similar violations of law and to withdraw the charges against them,” he said.

All cases under the Public Safety Act (PSA) will be reviewed immediately and in appropriate cases, detention orders will be withdrawn, he said

Chidambaram said that the state government has been asked to immediately convene a meeting of the Unified Command and to review the deployment of security forces in the Kashmir Valley, especially Srinagar, with particular reference to de-scaling the number of bunkers, check-points and so on in Srinagar and other towns.

It will also review the notification of areas as “disturbed areas”.

According to official sources, under the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Unified Command has to take the initial decision, if the AFSPA is to be lifted from some areas.

In Srinagar, welcoming the CCS decisions, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told reporters that the Unified Command will meet next week.

Omar said the state government would not take any unilateral decision on the AFSPA. “I am not a irresponsible chief minister,” he said, but added that the “army alone cannot get to decide” on the security situation.

The footprint of the army and the security forces in Kashmir should be reduced, he said.

The chief minister also announced all schools, colleges and universities and other educational institutions will reopen Monday, as urged by the CCS. The cabinet panel alos announced Rs.100 crore for the state government to re-build schools and colleges

Two special task forces, one each for Jammu region and Ladakh region, will also be set up to examine the developmental needs of the two regions. It will focus on the infrastructural needs there.

The all-party delegation, led by Chidambaram, visited the state following a cycle of violence, which has rocked the Kashmir valley since June 11.

Though separatists did not accept the invitation to meet the delegation, sub-teams of the delegation went to the residences of prominent separatist leaders - hardline Hurriyat leader Ali Shah Geelani, moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik - and heard their views.

At least 108 people, mostly youths and teenagers have been killed in firing by security forces on stone-pelting street protesters during the past three and a half months.

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