All party delegation to visit Kashmir

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New Delhi, Sept.15 (ANI): A cross section of leaders on Wednesday decided after an all-party meeting held here on the Kashmir issue, to send an all-party delegation to find a solution to end the violence in the Kashmir Valley.

Though no consensus emerged on key issues that formed the agenda of the over five-hour-long marathon meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, political leaders expressed satisfaction with the tone and tenor of the deliberations. Removal or amending the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will not be under consideration for now, as the leaders said that efforts to restore peace must be given a chance to succeed.

Senior National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, said: "We are not disappointed."

He also stressed, "The Prime Minister praised Omar."

It may recalled that earlier the Central Government had issued an official statement that acknowledged a "governance-deficit" in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources close to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that while he was disappointed with the remark, he was not thinking of resigning just yet.

Reading out a statement issued at the end of the all-party meeting, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: "Leaders of various political parties who attended today's meeting made valuable suggestions on ways and means to resolve the vexed issues that face us in Jammu and Kashmir."

"They agreed that the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations.

"The meeting resolved to send an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion. The visit of the all-party delegation would be facilitated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.

"The Government will take into account the deliberations at today's meeting while considering measures and initiatives to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The feedback received from the all-party delegation would form an important input into the Government's evolving response on various issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir".

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Singh said dialogue is the only route to lasting peace in the region.

He also stressed: "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. The Central and State Governments have already appealed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the youth, to eschew violence. I reiterate that appeal. We are ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence."

The death toll from the violence in the Kashmir Valley has crossed the 90 mark in the last three months.

Clashes between stone-pelters and security forces have become a near-daily feature in the streets.

Dr. Singh said: "I was shocked and distressed to see young men and women- even children- joining the protests on the streets. While some of these protests may have been impulsive or spontaneous, it cannot be denied that some incidents were orchestrated by certain groups."

Congress President Sonia Gandhi said: "We must ask ourselves why is there so much anger. Why is there so much pain, in particular amongst the youth...we must give them hope, we must understand and respect their legitimate aspirations."

Much of the discussion in the meeting focused on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Opinion on the Act is divided not just between parties, but within the government as well.

The Act is criticized for giving the Army sweeping powers - it can conduct searches and arrests without warrants, for example.haratiya Janata Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the party would support all government initiatives in Kashmir that were within the boundaries of the Indian Constitution.

He, however, expressed the party's staunch opposition to any changes to AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

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