Amarnath shrine forest land issue was handled incompetently: Fernandes

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New Delhi, July 25 : The controversy surrounding the transfer of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board speaks volumes about the incompetent handling of the issue by officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, feels former Defence Minister George Fernandes.

In an article for the magazine -- The Other Side - Fernandes reiterates his appeal to all those connected with the state, to handle its affairs "sensitively".

He squarely blames the "rabid reaction" of the hardline faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and the duplicitous behaviour of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) for the collapse of the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress Government.

"The Forest Minister in the Cabinet was from the PDP, a coalition partner in the government. Yet they (the PDP) refused to accept responsibility for the joint decision (of allocating forest land to set up temporary structures for facilities for Hindu pilgrims during the Amarnath Yatra). The PDP (which is led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) played electoral politics of the lowest kind by hitching its voice to the Hurriyat objections, and pulled out of the government," says Fernandes.

Fernandes also does not spare officials of the State Government, saying that they made a hash of all the clarifications sought by Chief Minister Azad and Governor N.N. Vohra, and this led to the Congress led coalition Government cancelling the Governor's forest land transfer order and reversing it, thus annoying Hindus in the region.

Fernandes also believes that infiltration from across the border is again at its height, and with the state enjoying a tourism boom, he warns the administration to take care not to "create a welcome mat for unwanted visitors."

He believes that on the ground, both Muslims and Hindus want harmony, and are tired of stating again and again that politicians must behave more responsibly.

To add to what Fernandes has written, former MP Jaya Jaitely says in her article in the same magazine, that visiting Kashmir is no longer a joy that it once use to be.

Recalling her previous visits to the Kashmir Valley between 1965 and 1990, she says she enjoyed every moment with her children until 1989, when the ugly face of insurgency started surfacing.

She says that on her latest trip to Srinagar - last month - she saw that bribery and extortion has become a way of life.

Areas that once featured paddy fields and vast expanses of greenery have given way to "unending row of houses, busy commercial areas and hoardings," she laments.

She admits that the people are now talking of militancy in the past tense, and that people are no longer pessimistic or negative, or habour ill-will towards their fellow beings, which is a good sign.

There is an overall agreement on one point she says and that is that "Kashmir has progressed and prospered despite or because of militancy.... Inspite of how much Pakistan and others had tried, the ordinary people of Kashmir have shown that they cannot be crippled."

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