July 2000 News

Farooq for unconditional talks

31 July 2000
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, on Monday insisted on holding an open and unconditional dialogue with the Hizbul Mujahideen and hoped that the other groups would soon realise the futility of the gun and come forward to participate in the peace process. Talking to mediapersons in Sheeri Baramulla, after the reviewing the passing out parade of police personnel, Dr. Abdullah said talks should have to be open and unconditional from both the sides. ''How can talks start if conditions are imposed''. Talks, he said, were going to be open and the Government of India (GOI) had made it clear. He, however, refused to divulge details about his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. The Hizbul ceasefire was a window of opportunity which other militants should follow. ''It is a visible change in their thinking,'' Dr. Abdullah said adding ''a group which was killing people and advocating violence has realised that it cannot solve any problem through the gun''. The Chief Minister said the other militant groups would be marginalised and would come forward for talks. However, he warned of attempts by hardline militants who had termed the Hizbul ceasefire ''betrayal''. They will try to prevent the talks taking place and to sabotage peace process, he added. On the autonomy issue, Dr. Abdullah denied that the National Conference had become irrelevant. It is a continuous struggle and will not give up, he said adding that the proposed talks with the militants had nothing to do with the autonomy. He said that he had received a positive response from the leaders he met in connection with autonomy issue recently as ''we tried to remove misconceptions''.


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