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Peace First, Then Dialogue, PM Tells All-Party Meet

New Delhi: Distressed over the events in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the government was willing to talk to anybody or any group but asserted that it could not happen
PTI September 15, 2010 13:31 IST
PTI
New Delhi: Distressed over the events in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the government was willing to talk to anybody or any group but asserted that it could not happen till the end of violence, some of which is "orchestrated by certain groups".

Addressing an all-party meeting on the volatile situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh underlined that dialogue and discussion is the "only path for lasting peace and prosperity" in the state and those having grievancse against the government "have to talk to the administration".

Appealing for peace, he expressed sadness over the loss of lives and injuries suffered by the people, the police and security personnel besides "huge disruption" in the daily lives of the common man and the financial losses suffered by various sections of the society in the state.

"I am sure all of us share a deep sense of distress over the unfortunate sequence of events, during and after the Eid, particularly in the context of a reported act by a misguided person thousands of miles away," Singh said, in an apparent reference to the alleged incident of desecration of Holy Quran by a person in the US.

"We have to talk to each other...But it is also true that meaningful dialogue can happen only in an atmosphere free from violence and confrontation. Discussions can take place only if we have calm and public order," he emphasised.

The meeting, attended by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, top BJP leaders L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and leaders from various other parties, has been convened to discuss steps to address the situation in the state.

The Prime Minister noted that the Central and the state governments had already appealed to the people of the state, especially the youth, to eschew violence. "I reiterate that appeal," he said.

"We are ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence," Singh said.

"It is indeed tragic that some of our people have foresaken this path (of dialogue) during the recent days," he said at the meeting called in the wake of three-month long cycle of violence in which over 80 people have lost their lives.

Expressing shock and distress over the fact that men, women and even children have been joining the protests on the streets of Kashmir, Singh said, "while some of these protests may have been impulsive or spontaneous, it cannot be denied that some incidents were orchestrated by certain groups."

He said the developments of the last three months "must persuade us to reflect and deliberate on the way forward."

The Prime Minister said the Centre would provide all possible assistance to the state to restore peace and public order to create conditions congenial for a dialogue process.

Noting that over the past few weeks, several leaders from across political spectrum have spoken or written to him on issues concerning the state, Singh said he had convened the meeting to "seek guidance" from various political parties on the "complex issue that we face in Jammu and Kashmir today".

The meeting is expected to seek consensus on the various initiatives that the government could take to restore peace and normalcy in the state.

Opposition PDP, which has so far stayed away from official deliberations on the crisis which has engulfed Kashmir for the last three months, attended the crucial all party meeting with its President Mehbooba Mufti heading the delegation.

A five-member ruling National Conference  delegation led by party President Farooq Abdullah took part in the talks. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah did not attend the meeting.

The NC, in a veiled threat, has spoken of reconsidering its alliance with Congress if its demands were rejected. "We will not repeat the mistake of 2000," Chaudhry Mohammad Ramzan, who is part of the NC delegation, said ahead of the meeting.

The party had continued to be part of the then ruling NDA even after the Centre rejected the autonomy resolution passed by the State Assembly, where National Conference enjoyed two-third majority.

Sources in the PDP claimed the party's decision to join the efforts of Centre in finding a solution came after some senior Central Congress leaders persuaded the Muftis. PTI