All party visit: Government for consensus, opposition wants AFSPA removed
| Saturday, September 3, 2016 - 22:14
New Delhi: On the eve of an all-party delegation's Kashmir trip, the government on Saturday said members were free to hold talks with anyone, including separatists, but urged them to speak in one voice during their two-day visit to the Valley, which has witnessed nearly two months of unending violence.
Opposition leaders made a strong case for holding talks with the separatist Hurriyat Conference, an immediate ban on use of pellet guns and withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from civilian areas in Jammu and Kashmir.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a preparatory meeting with delegation members here to discuss their engagements in Kashmir, official sources said.
Senior home ministry officials briefed the delegation and shared the roadmap for the visit that begins on Sunday.
The delegation of about 28 members includes leaders of over 20 political parties. These include Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury and AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
Saturday's meeting also took note of possible individuals and groups with whom the delegation may interact.
The sources said that a group of MPs from major opposition parties could also meet some groups separately.
"The government seemed to favour strongly that all-party delegation not only show single-minded determination to bring peace in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Valley, but it also wants that the members of the delegation speak in one voice," a source said.
At the meeting, the opposition parties supported the government move to send the delegation of elected MPs aiming to bring peace to the valley, which has been on the boil since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani. At least 73 people, including two policemen, have been killed in the weeks of violence.
CPI-M leader Yechury suggested that confidence-building measures should be announced during the visit of the delegation.
The government has said while the members of the delegation are free to meet anyone, including separatists, delegation leader Rajnath Singh's meetings will be "restricted" and he will meet only those who are ready to resolve all issues within the framework of the constitution.
Azad, also a former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, said his party and other constituents of the UPA want "dialogue with all stakeholders".
"It is important the centre and the state government identify the stakeholders," Azad said.
Yechury said the government "should invite Hurriyat for talks with the all-party delegation."
He also insisted that the government must ban pellet guns and withdraw AFSPA from civilian areas as also adequate rehabilitation and compensation for the families of those who lost their lives in the recent violence.
The government representatives maintained that all efforts will be made to implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement of taking the peace initiative to the trouble-hit state on the basis of "insaniyat, jamhuriyat and Kashmiriat".
Rajnath Singh said the delegation would chalk out a list of suggestions and recommendations for the government based on their inputs from the meetings in Kashmir.
"On return, the delegation will meet in Delhi and submit the recommendations. Subsequent government actions will be based on their suggestions," an official source told IANS.
Surprisingly, two major Uttar Pradesh-based parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, said they would not nominate any party leader to go to the valley. The parties have, however, supported the move to send the delegation to Kashmir.
NCP leader Tariq Anwar also supported the Congress line and said that the dialogue should be open to all stakeholders.
NDA constituent, Akali Dal leader Prem Singh Chandumajra, said the "state needs a political framework. It is not merely a law and order issue".
The delegation would also include central ministers Arun Jaitley, Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitendra Singh besides Ambika Soni (Congress), JD-U leader Sharad Yadav and D. Raja (CPI), Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress), Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut and Anandrao Adsul, TDP's Thota Narasimham, BJD leader Dilip Tirkey, AIUDF leader Badaruddin Ajmal and Muslim League's E. Ahamed.
Jitendra Reddy of TRS, N.K. Premchandran (RSP), P. Venugopal (AIADMK), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Y.B. Subba (YSR-Congress), Jaiprakash Yadav (RJD), Dharamveer Gandhi (AAP) and Dushyant Chautala (RLD) are others in the delegation.