‘Broad understanding’ to solve Amarnath land row (Fourth Lead)

August 24th, 2008 - 1:16 am ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 23 (IANS) A “broad understanding” over the possible compromise formula on the Amarnath land controversy was worked out late Saturday night after three rounds of talks between the Jammu and Kashmir government panel and agitation leaders.The third round of talks, which started at 9.45 p.m., remained inconclusive but the panel appointed by Governor N.N. Vohra and three representatives of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti (SASS) managed to reach a “broad understanding” on what the final agreement should be.

While the governor’s panel sought three days’ time for further approvals, the Samiti said it will wait but will also continue its agitation.

At the end of the third round of talks, an official spokesman said that “threadbare” discussions were held between the two sides. “The two sides arrived at a broad understanding” and it is “hoped that the issue would be resolved in the next round of talks”, he said.

During the day, both sides tried to work out their respective drafts to find concurrence and devise a formula that could help end the agitation in Jammu region.

During the second round of talks that lasted for about one-and-a-half hours, the focus was on the diversion of the piece of land at Baltal in north Kashmir for about three months to provide facilities to the pilgrims visiting the Himalayan hill shrine of Amarnath, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

According to informed sources, both sides made a “substantial progress” in resolving their differences at the end of the second round of talks.

Though the government side remained tight-lipped over the nature of the progress, SASS spokesperson Suchet Singh said the talks were “fruitful and productive”.

“We are progressing,” he told reporters.

The sources said the government was willing to give the 40 hectares of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for use during the pilgrimage period of two or three months. The issue of how it would be done was being sorted out.

SASS leaders discussed with experts how to arrive at a more specific legal definition of the diversion of the land to the shrine board.

According to sources from both sides, they were inching towards a solution that would help in normalising the situation in Jammu region, where the SASS-led agitation for the restoration of the land to the shrine board has been going on for almost two and a half months.

“We have exchanged constructive views with each other and will meet again,” the governor’s adviser S.S. Bloeria, who led the four-member government panel, told reporters after the first round of talks in the morning.

The SASS leaders said the talks were held in a “cordial atmosphere”.

“The dialogue shall succeed,” said SASS spokesperson Tilak Raj Sharma.

The state government had May 26 transferred a 40-hectare plot of land to the SASB but withdrew the order following protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. The revocation July 1 ignited an agitation in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

The SASS insists that the land be restored to the shrine board. “Nothing short of it” will be acceptable, Suchet Singh had told reporters before the talks started.

The government panel includes Bloeria, retired high court judge G.D. Sharma, Jammu University vice chancellor Amitabh Mattoo and SASB CEO B.B. Vyas, who is also the governor’s principal secretary.

The SASS representatives at the talks were Tilak Raj Sharma, Narinder Singh and Pawan Kohli.

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