Jammu agitators ready for talks, NSA concerned over Kashmir situation (Roundup, changing dateline)

August 20th, 2008 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu/Srinagar, Aug 20 (IANS) A resolution to the simmering Amarnath land row seems in sight with the organisation spearheading the agitation expressing its willingness for talks with the government, even as National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan expressed concern over the separatists-led protests in the Kashmir Valley.The Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti said in Jammu late Wednesday that four of its representatives would attend the talks with the government. The protests in the city, however, continued with 50 people injured as rampaging mobs Wednesday torched government buildings and clashed with the security forces.

Narayanan’s remarks were made in Srinagar during a high level review of the situation in the state, sources said.

The Samiti said three of its spokespersons - Tilak Raj Sharma, Suchet Singh and Narinder Singh - as also activist Pawan Kohli would conduct talks with the state government.

“We have decided to enter into talks because we don’t want to be blamed for refusing to talk,” Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma said.

“The talks can begin anytime now,” he added.

Governor’s Advisor Sudhir Singh Bloeria heads the government panel for the talks. Jammu University vice-chancellor Amitabh Matoo, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board CEO B.B. Vyas and retired high court judge G.D. Sharma are its other members.

Bloeria Tuesday invited the Samiti for commencing a dialogue to evolve an amicable solution on all the core issues.

Earlier Wednesday, Samiti-led agitators set ablaze a portion of the Sarwal police post and a government residential building opposite Gandhi Nagar police station.

At least 50 people, including a dozen policemen, were injured in the clashes between the police and stone throwing mobs in several parts of Jammu city and the border town of Akhnoor.

At many places, children led by parents forced their entry into the police stations and offered themselves for arrest.

The state government had transferred a 40-hectare plot of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board but later withdrew this following protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. The revocation July 1 ignited an agitation in the Hindu majority Jammu region.

The Samiti had given a call for a three-day programme of “jail bharo” or courting arrest, and Wednesday was the turn of children after men courted arrest Monday and women Tuesday.

Over 350,000 people had offered themselves for arrest, according to a spokesman of Sangarsh Samiti, while the official estimates put it slightly less than 100,000.

Meanwhile, the Samiti also called for a civil disobedience movement against the state government and asked the people not to pay taxes or electricity and water tariffs.

However, the status of this was not immediately clear in view of the Samiti accepting the government offer for talks.

Narayanan, accompanied by Intelligence Bureau Director A.C. Haldar and officials of the union home ministry, arrived in Srinagar Wednesday morning and left for Delhi in the evening.

Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra chaired a high level meeting to review the security situation in the Valley, where thousands of protesters had turned out in response to the call given by separatist leaders during the last 10 days.

Besides Narayanan and Haldar, Kashmir Chief Secretary S.S. Kapoor, Home Commissioner Anil Goswami, police chief Kuldeep Khoda, additional director general of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) A.K. Ghosh, and the commanders of the three army corps in the state also attended the meeting.

Senior central and state intelligence officers also briefed the NSA about the surcharged atmosphere in both the Valley and the Jammu region.

Sources said the meeting deliberated over the inputs provided by the intelligence agencies and the possible ways and means to deal with the situation in the coming days.

“The team would prepare a detailed note for the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office), taking into account the perceptions carried by the team its visit to the Valley,” the sources said.

On Aug 11, at least five people, including a senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir’s moderate Hurriyat faction, were killed in clashes with security forces as they marched towards the Line of Control (LoC) in Baramulla district against the “economic blockade”.

Since then, tensions have escalated leading to people defying curfew and the police firing at protesters in several places.

While 17 more people in the Kashmir Valley were also killed, the death toll in the entire state in the waves of protests and counter-protests now stands around 40.

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