BJP’s flag-hoisting march: Omar meets Chidambaram

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NEW DELHI - Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met union Home Minister P. Chidambaram here Wednesday ahead of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) march to Srinagar’s Lal Chowk to hoist the tricolour on the Republic Day against the state government’s wishes.

The two leaders also discussed the road ahead for the government-initiated peace process in Kashmir.

Abdullah, after the meeting at the home minister’s North Block office, said he discussed with Chidambaram the ways to deal with the BJP’s plans to hoist the national flag in Srinagar city centre Lal Chowk, which the chief minister fears could incite trouble in the valley.

“We are hoping that nothing will be done by the BJP to precipitate the situation in the state,” Abdullah told reporters.

He said he conveyed to the home minister the state government’s views on the BJP’s plan but refused to give the details of the meeting.

“I have conveyed to the home minister our assessment vis–vis the yatra (march). I am not going to get into any specifics on what we will do,” he said, adding that the state and central governments were well prepared to deal with the situation.

The two leaders also discussed reports submitted by the central government-appointed interlocutors for initiation of the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and the government’s plan to reduce by a quarter the number of security forces in the terror-scarred state in the next 12 months.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai last week said the state would see a 25 percent reduction in security forces’ deployment, especially from populated areas, and more bunkers would be lifted from Srinagar.

The meeting also comes days after the interlocutors - journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and economist M.M. Ansari - submitted their latest report to the home ministry specifying the “broad contours” for a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue for consideration by the government.

The interlocutors were appointed in the wake of deadly street protests in the Kashmir Valley last summer in which 112 people were killed, mostly in firing by paramilitary forces and the state police.

The renewed unrest in the state, which has been battling a separatist war since 1989, calmed down after the government promised steps towards a permanent political settlement of the Kashmir issue by announcing an eight-point agenda for permanent peace in the valley.

The eight-point initiative included holding a sustained dialogue with all shades of political opinion and reviewing the notification of “Disturbed Areas Act” as a prelude to any phased withdrawal of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas of the valley.

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