PM to tell all parties today: Jammu versus Kashmir will help our enemy

5 August 2008
The Indian Express
Amitabh Sinha

New Delhi: Ahead of the all-party meeting to resolve the crisis in Jammu, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is learnt to have conveyed to the top BJP leadership that a worsening law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir would only benefit India’s “enemies” and urged the party to help the government find an amicable solution to the issue. The Prime Minister spoke to BJP president Rajnath Singh yesterday evening and asked him to join hands with the government on this issue “in the national interest”, sources said. His call to Rajnath Singh came a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s. While Rajnath Singh is learnt to have appreciated the government’s initiative in calling an all-party meeting, he also insisted that Centre should try to find a way to ensure that the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board gets back the land which was withdrawn by the state government following protests in the Kashmir Valley. The BJP chief is learnt to have told the Prime Minister that the emotions of the people in Jammu needed to be assuaged by returning the land to the Board, sources said. He also called for inclusion of members of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, which is spearheading the protests in Jammu, in tomorrow’s all-party meeting. Meanwhile, on the eve of the meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence Wednesday evening, the government was today exploring options to bring the situation under control. There were a couple of proposals on the table which are likely to be discussed with political parties tomorrow. But most importantly, the government is extremely keen that all parties join hands to appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to maintain calm and peace. The Prime Minister himself is expected to make a statement after the meeting asking the people to shun violence and not divide the state on communal lines. Among the concrete proposals likely to be discussed is the one floated by National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah. It proposes that the Shrine Board be given the land during the two-month period of the Amarnath pilgrimage after which the state government can take back its possession. Another option has been proposed by Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vohra who has favoured the reconstitution of the Shrine Board to include local members. Vohra has also offered to step down from chairmanship of the Board if that satisfies the protesters. Political parties have not yet formulated their stand on any of these proposals. Sources said there was a fair chance that the BJP might agree to the Farooq Abdullah plan with slight modifications. But there was an equally fair chance of it getting rejected by the PDP, they pointed out. In the event of no clear solution emerging out of tomorrow’s meeting, the government may also exert itself and decide to take whatever necessary steps it was empowered with to bring the situation under control. It is significant that despite loss of public property and defying of curfew and prohibitory orders by thousands of people, authorities have restrained themselves from making preventive arrests. Senior minister Pranab Mukherjee has called a meeting of UPA allies at 12 noon tomorrow to work out a common strategy at the meeting. The BJP will also hold an internal meeting tomorrow to finalise its stand. Meanwhile, there was a slight improvement in the situation in Jammu and adjoining areas. Traffic on the national highway 1A has started moving in convoys. Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta told The Indian Express that the areas where curfew had been imposed were by and large peaceful and under control. He said security was being tightened in areas outside main cities from where sporadic incidents of violence were being reported.