Doors for dialogue with extremists open: Sonia

Doors for dialogue with extremists open: Sonia

19 December 2010
The Daily Excelsior


NEW DELHI: Stressing the need to seek reasons for the turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today said the appointment of three interlocutors for the troubled State battling an unending separatist campaign was a step towards this process. 'We have appointed interlocutors and want to do this. We have to find answers in Kashmir on why a full generation is estranged. The young in Kashmir should be reached out,' Ms Gandhi said in her address to the 83rd Plenary session of the party at Burari here. While saying that there was a need to tackle the problem in Jammu and Kashmir and Maoist menace, Ms Gandhi said efforts for dialogue with these sections should continue. Gandhi said while extremist elements need to be combated, the doors for dialogue must remain open and the prospect of 'political accommodation' should be kept alive. She also made it clear that the efforts of forces operating from across the border to spread terror in the country would be fought with determination including in Jammu and Kashmir, where the Government has appointed interlocutors to give 'new energy and focus' to the political process. 'We are confronted with terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. In a number of States, Naxalites are using violent methods to undermine the basis of the democratic system. In parts of northeast, militant groups disturb peace,' the Congress president said. While these elements have to be combated with 'all the means at our command, the door of dialogue has to be kept open and the prospect of political accommodation kept alive in the troubled spots,' Gandhi said. In J&K, there was a need to address 'the alienation of the whole new generation of youth that has known nothing but conflict'. At the same time, Gandhi said security forces were facing a difficult situation with courage and fortitude. 'The political process must get new energy and focus. That is what our Government has sought to do by appointing interlocutors,' she said. Citing the recent bomb blast in Varanasi, Gandhi said this has reminded that the vigil cannot be relaxed. 'Let there be absolutely no doubt about our determination to confront those elements and organisations who operate from across the border to spread terror, to destroy our social fabric and weaken us economically'. In the Naxal-affected areas, the Congress president emphasised the need to resolve issues of daily concern to tribal communities, particularly the loss of land and livelihood and the absence of even the minimum basic services. 'This must go on hand-in-hand with upgrading police capabilities and effectiveness,' she said. Buffeted by staggering scams and controversies over suspected involvement of right wing elements in terrorism, the Congress today unveiled a five-point action plan to deal with corruption and counter attacked BJP by demanding probe into 'links' between RSS and its affiliates and terror. A party plenary attended by over 15,000 delegates held against the backdrop of 2G spectrum, Adarsh and CWG scams heard Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well as her son Rahul Gandhi calling for strict and speedy action against corruption, including those involving politicians and bureaucrats in a 'defined time-frame'. Mrs Gandhi unveiled a five-point action plan to battle corruption by fast-tracking all cases against public servants including politicians 'like us'. She called for taking forward the proposal of State-funding of elections, legislative and clear procedures to ensure transparency in public procurement and shedding of discretionary powers by Chief Ministers and all Ministers, including at the Centre, especially in land allotments as they 'breed corruption'. An open competitive system of exploiting natural resources was also needed, she said. Sonia Gandhi having laid the roadmap to battle corruption, the Government headed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is expected to follow up by taking executive action. The conclave was also being held against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding Rahul Gandhi's remarks to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer Hindu radicalism posed a bigger threat than terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba. Rahul Gandhi confined his speech to corruption without touching on the issue communalism and terror. The Congress Plenary raised the pitch against saffron forces by demanding a probe into their 'links' with terror after Sonia Gandhi condemned both majority and minority communalism as dangerous and said it should be defeated. Her condemnation of both majority and minority communalism is seen as a damage-control exercise against the backdrop of controversy surrounding Rahul Gandhi's comments. The Plenary unanimously adopted a political resolution which said that 'links' between terrorists and the RSS and its sister organisations have been 'uncovered' in recent cases. 'The Indian National Congress calls upon the Government to tackle this menace in the strongest possible manner and investigate links between terrorists and the RSS and its sister organisations that have been uncovered in some recent cases,' said the resolution proposed by senior leader Pranab Mukherjee and seconded by Digvijay Singh and others including Rahul. The role of religious fundamentalist groups challenging the security of the nation can no longer be ignored, the party said in the resolution that was discussed for over five hours on the opening day of the two-day conclave in Burari on the outskirts of the city. Led by Sonia Gandhi, the Congress launched a strident attack on Sangh Parivar with leaders like Mukherjee referring to Pune and other blasts where right-wing groups have been suspected of having played a role. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh dragged senior BJP leader L K Advani by saying his rath yatra had sown the seeds of Hindu-Muslim divide and was the cause for terrorism in the country. In her 30-minute address, Sonia Gandhi said 'The Congress party makes no distinction between organisations of the majority and of the minority communities who indulge in communalism and related acts of terrorism. They are all dangerous, they must all be defeated.' Maintaining that Congress has always fought against all forms of communalism, regardless of their source, Gandhi said, 'communalism is the abuse of religion for narrow political purposes. 'It is the abuse of religion and to spread hatred and bigotry. It is the abuse of religion to polarise our society and to divide us.' In an apparent attack on saffron forces, she said the country cannot ignore the pernicious impact of individuals, institutions and ideologies that distort history and thrive on spreading religious prejudice and inciting people to violence using religion as a cover. Sonia today pulled up Central Ministers for 'not paying heed' to party men in States ruled by non-Congress Governments and 'demoralising' them. 'Many party workers in non-Congress States have complained to me that our Ministers at the Centre do not fully appreciate their concerns. They make a valid point. 'Such neglect is demoralising for our workers who function in a hostile environment,' the 64-year-old Congress president said. She directed the Central Ministers to engage with local party leadership and workers during their visits. Observing that a 'new situation' had arisen in States which were not ruled by Congress, Gandhi said the UPA Government was transferring 'unprecedented funds to all States without discrimination'. Asking Congressmen to create an awareness of the Centre's role in creating and funding various schemes, she directed party workers in non-Congress States to 'counter any effort by the opposition to take credit for them and mislead the people'. In an effort to rejuvenate the party organisation, she said it was the primary responsibility of those in office to be sensitive to the voices coming from the party organisation and ranks. 'Party workers must be seriously heard and listened to. We must not forget that it is the ordinary worker who is our ear on the ground, our hand on the pulse of the common man,' Gandhi said. Turning to the recent Assembly polls in Bihar where the party received a drubbing, she said the election outcome has demonstrated that there was no alternative to earnestly beginning the process of reviving the party organisation from the grassroots. 'There are no shortcuts. The road ahead will be long and arduous, but we will persevere and we will succeed. This is no time for despondency. This is a time for constructive action including in those States where we are in coalition,' Gandhi said. (Agencies)


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