Breather For Valley, Omar, But PDP Ignores PM Call For Meet11 July 2010
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Ahead of an all-party meeting called by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, an uneasy calm prevailed across the Valley today as curfew was lifted from several parts of Kashmir. A shutdown call by the separatists, however, ensured that people stayed off the roads. Ignoring a late-night personal appeal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti stuck by her decision to stay away from Monday’s all-party meeting. Saying that the meeting would accomplish little, she urged the Prime Minister to personally intervene to resolve the Valley crisis. “I thank the Prime Minister and Home Minister for having called me. But I expressed my inability to take part,” Mehbooba said at a hastily called press conference. That setback apart, the beleaguered Omar - who has been battling questions over his leadership - got a shot in the arm today as a joint legislative party meeting of National Conference and the Congress, attended by NC president Farooq Abdullah as well as PCC chief Saifuddin Soz, expressed “full faith and confidence” in him. Led by Omar, the meeting appealed to the people of the state to maintain calm. Out of the total 80 MLAs of the two parties, 77 were present at the meeting. After several days of strict curfew and security restrictions, curfew was lifted from the entire uptown Srinagar on Sunday, though downtown areas continued to see security restrictions. While small groups of youths took to the streets at some places, they were immediately dispersed by police and CRPF personnel. Curfew was also lifted from Anantnag, Pulwama and Kakapora towns in south Kashmir and the north Kashmir townships of Baramulla and Sopore, which was the epicentre of the recent protests. The Hurriyat headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani has announced three successive strikes until July 13, to be followed by protests until Friday. The moderate Hurriyat has called for a march towards the Martyrs’ Graveyard on July 13. Mehbooba said the all-party meeting would hardly serve any purpose at this late stage. “We think the state government has already taken all the important decisions,” the PDP chief said, accusing Omar of trying to hide his “failures” by calling the meeting. “He is trying to project himself as the only nationalist in Kashmir.” Earlier, Omar too had called up Mehbooba to urge her to participate in the meeting. Asking the PM to intervene in the situation, Mehbooba said: “He should unveil a political initiative that is taken seriously not by the PDP but the people of the state.” She urged Singh to lift the curbs on the media, recall the Army and put an end to the “crackdown” on the civilian population. PDP’s stance is reflective of the kind of politics it has pursued over the years. Having always straddled the mainstream-separatist divide, it does not want to be seen as associated with the establishment at a time when anger is running high in Valley.