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HM softens stance on J&K issue
New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS):
Published on 6 Aug. 2010 9:53 PM IST
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Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Friday it was important to win the hearts and minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir and the government was committed to reactivating the political process in the state, marking a softening in his stance.
He also said that the government would be “very happy” if hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani joins in the dialogue.
The minister, who had earlier said that the uprising was being fuelled by elements across the border and it needed to be put down firmly, told the Rajya Sabha that an all-party delegation from the state is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next week. He also said the government would convene a meeting of leaders of political parties in parliament to discuss the situation in the troubled state.
Chidambaram said the government was willing to restart the “quiet dialogue” which, he said was “interrupted” in December following an attack on a Hurriyat Conference leader.
He hoped that the moderate leaders among separatists will resume the dialogue. “I will be very happy if (Syed Ali Shah) Geelani also joins to have a dialogue in one form or other,” he said.
“The prime minister will be happy to receive the all-party delegation (from Jammu and Kashmir) as early as Monday,” he said.
“The immediate task is to restore law and order... We must bring to an end violence on the streets of Jammu and Kashmir,” Chidambaram said, adding that security forces were acting with a great degree of restraint.
Chidambaram also said it was true that Pakistan “appears to have changed its strategy.”
“I don’t think there is let up in infiltration but our capacity to deal with infiltration and militancy is much higher than a few years ago,” he said, adding that it was possible that the neighbour has a strategy of relying on civilian unrest to get better dividends.
He said by winning hearts and minds of the people even these strategies can be foiled.
Referring to the demand for dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, he said it “can’t be brushed aside and a way should be found to deliver on the promise”.
He said the government was for reduction of forces if the situation improved. The presence of troops was according to the situation and disturbed conditions.
5 injured in clashes
Five people were injured, one of them critically, in clashes with security forces across Kashmir Valley Friday as protesters again defied curfew and came out on the streets.
Three protesters were injured, including one seriously, when security forces fired on a mob attacking a police picket in Sopore town, while two were injured in central Kashmir’s Budgam district as police carried out a baton charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the protesters.
Protests were also held in various areas of Srinagar where some stray incidents of violence occurred, but no casualties were reported. Three companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), inducted in the city Thursday, carried out flag marches in Dalgate and Nowpura areas of the city.
Meanwhile, as curfew continued in Srinagar and in other major towns, people in several areas complained of an acute shortage of food items and medicines.
According to police, a large mob surrounded the Warpora police picket in Sopore in the afternoon and started pelting stones at the security men inside.
“As mobs refused to disperse after baton charges, tear smoke and warning shots in the air, security men inside the Warpora picket opened fire in self-defence. Three people were injured in the firing and they have been shifted to Srinagar for treatment,” a senior police officer said here.
Doctors at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences SKIMS) said one of the injured youth, identified as Rameez Ahmad, had sustained a critical injury.
Two youth were injured when security forces used batons and tear smoke shells to bring unruly mobs under control in Badgam.
In Srinagar, protests were held in Batmaloo, Narwara, Humhama, Barthana, Lawaipora and Anchar areas.
Protesters burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in the Anchar area. In Bagat-e-Kanipora area on the outskirts of the city, protesters torched the local Panchayat building.

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