‘Everybody is playing politics over shrine dispute in Kashmir’

August 24th, 2008 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Everybody is playing politics over the Amarnath land dispute, says National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chairman Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, and the government’s vacillation only compounded the problem. Qureshi, a Congress veteran from the valley, questions the cancellation of the land allotment to the Amarnath shrine board “without citing any cogent reasons”.

“Everybody is playing politics in the valley over the allotment and then cancellation of land to the Amarnath shrine board. The mess has given a tool to the vested interests to vitiate atmosphere inside and outside the valley,” Qureshi told IANS in an interview.

He termed the cancellation of the land allotment to the Amarnath shrine board “a great folly” after the government decided to give the land.

“No reasonable justification is being offered as to why the land was first allotted, and the reason to cancel the allotment. It is a total mess,” said Qureshi.

“Such vacillation on the part of the government led to the people’s polarisation along religious lines. The forces always ready to fish in troubled waters have compounded the problem.”

The land allocation had led to violent demonstration in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, while its revocation incensed people in the Hindu-majority Jammu region. This polarised the state along communal lines.

What is the way out of the morass the valley is currently stuck in?

“There is no alternative to talking to the people of the state. I am sorry to say that the government did not adopt a correct approach in addressing the crisis,” said Qureshi.

“The all-party meeting should have preceded a series of parleys with the agitating people. Without going into the people’s psyche, we cannot have a lasting remedy to any problem. Nothing should be thrust upon the people of the state.

“A decision has to be evolved through mutual consensus of the state’s people. Thankfully, the situation has not yet taken a communal shape. The challenge before the government is how to restore peace without straining people’s relationship.”

Has the government adopted a right mechanism in facilitating the Amarnath pilgrimage?

“The whole affair should be managed by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Till a separate board was created to oversee the annual event, the government was managing the show. There was not a single incident of communal violence,” Qureshi said.

The stalemate has dealt a huge blow to the state’s economy.

“It will now take some time for the state’s economy to pick up,” Qureshi said. “The valley has seen several sad events in recent years. One can only hope and pray it is able to ride out the current tumultuous phase too.”

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