All-party team in Kashmir with ‘open mind’

Monday, September 20, 2010

SRINAGAR - An all-party delegation, headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, arrived here with what he called an “open mind” to take stock of the ground situation in the Kashmir Valley before steps are taken to defuse tensions.

However, the delegation failed to cut ice with separatist leaders refusing to meet the visiting delegates, terming the visit “a facade”.

The delegation landed at the Srinagar international airport in a special plane amid tight security and headed for the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC) on the edge of the Dal Lake where it is meeting political leaders from mainstream parties and prominent citizens from the valley.

Chidambaram addressed the gathering and said the team has come with an “open mind” and the main purpose was to interact with people, listen to them patiently, and “carve out a path for taking Kashmir out of this present cycle of violence”.

Apart from interacting with political leaders, representatives of trade and commerce and citizens, the delegation during its two-day visit is to meet separatist leaders if they respond positively to written invitations extended to them.

While Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani refused to meet them earlier, moderate leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik Monday said they too would not meet the all-party delegation, saying it was “a facade”.

Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said his group had forwarded a memorandum addressed to the team.

Besides Chidambaram, the all-party team also includes Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah is accompanying the delegation.

Curfew continued to be imposed across the Kashmir Valley to prevent violence.

The valley has been rocked by a cycle of violence with retaliatory firing by the security forces on stone-pelting mobs resulting in the death of 102 civilians, mostly teenagers and youth, in 102 days since June 11.

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