Patil urges Kashmir fruit growers not to cross LoC

August 10th, 2008 - 6:03 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

Srinagar, Aug 10 (IANS) Stating that communal harmony in Jammu and Kashmir would not be allowed to be disturbed over the Amarnath land row, union Home Minister Shivraj Patil Sunday said the road-block to the Kashmir Valley has been lifted and fruit-laden trucks stranded on the highway for weeks could start moving. Addressing a news conference here, Patil also urged fruit growers not to go ahead with their threatened march across the Line of Control (LoC) to Pakistan-administered Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad to sell their produce.

“Such a step would be wrong for both the fruit growers and the country,” he said after an all-party central delegation led by him reviewed the situation in the Kashmir Valley and interacted with politicians here.

He said the government was ready to compensate those fruit growers whose produce was destroyed because the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was blocked by protesters demanding allocation of land to the Amarnath shrine management board.

Protesters in Jammu had blocked the only motorable road link to the valley after the government July 1 cancelled the May 26 land allotment to the Amarnath shrine board.

The issue has created an unprecedented communal wedge between the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu plains. Separatist Hurriyat Conference Friday threatened to lead Kashmir fruit growers’ march to Muzaffarabad Monday following the road block near Jammu.

“We shall help the fruit growers who had suffered because of the non-availability of transport,” Patil said, reiterating that the Jammu-Srinagar highway has now been restored to traffic both ways.

Asked how the government intended to deal with the challenge posed by the march, Patil said: “We will have to deal with it as we have been dealing with such situations in the rest of the country.”

The home minister said a solution to the land row acceptable to the people in both the regions of the state would be worked out.

Stressing that the communal harmony in Jammu and Kashmir should be maintained, he said: “We (the government) will take steps to ensure the communal harmony is not disturbed.”

He said the media could play a great role in re-building confidence between the two regions of the state.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea and the media is the vehicle which carries an idea. I request you to be responsible and report in such a manner so that the innocents are not put to harm,” he urged.

He said the central government would pay compensation to those who lost their lives or got injured during the land row agitation. This is besides the ex-gratia compensation announced by the state government.

The central delegation held talks with various groups in Jammu Saturday in a bid to resolve the dispute. “We will attempt to work a way out which is acceptable to both regions of the state and the one which will have no adverse fallout,” Patil told reporters at the end of the talks in Jammu.

The Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti (SASS), a conglomerate of over 30 Hindu groups demanding the return of the land to the shrine board, said the talks with the central team were “inconclusive” and vowed to pursue its campaign.

Meanwhile, representatives of Kashmir chamber of commerce and industry and the transporters left the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre, the venue of the all-party talks, without meeting the central delegation.

“We were kept waiting for two hours and then we left the place,” a representative of the traders said.

When informed about the development, Patil said he was sorry about it because the delegation meeting had continued for a longer time than originally intended.

That must have resulted in the delay in the proposed meeting with the chamber of commerce and transporters’ representatives, he said.

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