‘Economic blockade’ focus of talks

10 August 2008
The Hindu

Srinagar: Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said here on Sunday that the Centre was keen on finding a solution to the Amarnath land issue that would be acceptable to all and not hurt the sentiments of any region. He, however, did not say when the next round of talks would be held with the Sangarsh Samiti, which is spearheading the agitation in Jammu. Mr. Patil was talking to journalists before winding up the two-day visit of an all-party delegation that met here in the day. The delegation will submit its report to the Centre. The Amarnath Yatra should continue as it had been going on and the Prime Minister was concerned about it. “As far as solution to the land issue is concerned, we will try to have one that is acceptable to all.” The “economic blockade” was the focus of the deliberations here and it was a matter of concern. Steps would be taken to ensure that the national highway remained open at all times to facilitate smooth supply of goods to and from Kashmir. “It was the focus of the talks in Srinagar as well as in Jammu. We talked to the administration and those people [security forces] to whom the national highway has been handed over,” he said. “If they [traders] want, they can be sent with Army convoys in order to ensure their safety. Otherwise, arrangements will be made to purchase their fruits by the police and the CRPF and distribute them among schoolchildren to prevent any losses. In case any damage is proved, the fruit growers will be given compensation.” Mr. Patil called upon the fruit growers, traders and separatist parties to cancel their proposed march to Muzaffarabad in PoK. The government would take all effective steps to ensure the smooth and safe passage of fruit-laden trucks to Delhi, along with other steps within the Valley. “Don’t go by the other [Srinagar-Muzaffarabad] road. It is not good for us and not good for you as well. It does not help anybody.” He warned that in case there was a problem, the law would take its own course. Warning against communalising the situation, he said law and order would be maintained strictly in both regions. Compensation would be given to families who lost their members in the agitation in both regions. “During our visit to both regions and after meeting people of different shades of opinion, we found that nobody is in favour of any division of the State on regional or communal lines and that is appreciable,” he said. Mr. Patil urged the media to be sensitive while reporting from the State. “Media can also make mistakes. We request you to see what is covered is fact and done in a manner that it does not hurt the sentiments [of people].” Union Minister Saifuddin Soz, the former Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti attended an all-party meeting on Sunday. They did not attend a similar meeting in Jammu on Saturday following the Samiti’s protest.