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It was a shame: Azad says about NDA's talks with Hizb in 2000

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Srinagar, Apr 17 (UNI) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said it was a ''shame'' that the representatives of the Government of India held dialogue with ''masked people'', referring to the talks between the Centre and the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2000.

He also ruled out talks with ''gun-wielding and nakab-wearing (masked) people'' and asked the militants to lay down arms and join the ongoing dialogue and peace process.

''We cannot talk to the gun-wielding people. In democracy, you cannot expect the people coming with the gun and sitting across the table. They (militants) have to abjure the violence,'' Mr Azad said.

He was talking to journalists after taking salute of the recruits at the passing out parade at the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Training Centre in Humhama near here.

When pointed out that the NDA government held talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2000, the Chief Minister said, ''it was a shame that the repreentatives of the Government of India held talks with the nakab-wearing (masked) people. Nobody in the government knew who they were talking to.'' ''We will not talk to somebody whose face we cannot see. We would like to talk to the gun-wielding people (militants), but before that they have to lay down the arms and abjure the violence,'' he added.

It was on July 25, 2000, that the Hizbul Mujahideen, the single largest indigenous militant group operating in Jammu and Kashmir, declared a unilateral ceasefire for three months and held talks with the representatives of the then NDA government.

However, the truce was called off on August 8, 2000 following India's refusal to include Pakistan in any trilateral talks over the Kashmir issue as proposed by the Hizb.

Asked if the talks would be held directly with the militants, Mr Azad said, ''The question is with which militant outfit you talk to. There are militants from the state and outside as well...across the border. Their masters are somewhere else. We have been talking to the masters for a pretty long time now.'' The Chief Minister said it was heartening to note that the attitude of Pakistan has changed to a great extent over the period of time.

UNI AG RP SND1431

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