Omar Meets Central Leaders; Discusses AFSPA, Ekta Yatra19 January 2011
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today asked BJP not to 'precipitate' the situation in the Valley by going ahead with its ‘Ekta Yatra’ to hoist tri-colour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Republic Day. Omar, who met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P Chidambaram to apprise them of the situation in the State, said he would be in close touch with the Home Ministry on how to deal with any situation arising out of the BJP programme. Disregarding Omar’s appeal, the BJP has vowed to go ahead with its Ekta Yatra from Kolkata that will culminate in Srinagar on January 26 with hoisting of the tricolour in Lal Chowk. 'I am not going to get into any specific as to what we are going to do. As I said time and again, we are hoping that nothing will be done to precipitate the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. As we come close to January 26, we will decide what we will do,' he told reporters after a 40-minute meeting with Chidambaram. Asked about his Government’s stand on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Omar said 'it is not a mere political cry for my Government. It is a reflection of the sentiments of people who want to get rid of the laws that were imposed two decades back when the situation was abnormal'. Favouring amendments AFSPA or its removal from some areas of the State, Omar said 'as the semblance of normalcy was visible on the ground. 'We have already starting reducing the number of boots on the ground. Dismantling of some bunkers from city and adjoining areas was the first step in the process and we hope to continue until we reach a level where the visible presence is greatly reduced at least. 'No right thinking person can turn around and tell you that the AFSPA should be revoked in one shot. It is in those areas that we are contemplating withdrawing the disturbed areas act which will then automatically mean that the AFSPA does not apply there,' he said. Omar said he had set up a small committee-one from Jammu and one for Srinagar-with Police Chief, State Home Secretary and two security advisers-the Corps Commander in Srinagar for the Kashmir committee and the Corps Commander in Nagrota for the Jammu committee. Omar reached Jammu tonight after his 4 days stay in New Delhi. Now that the new security advisors have settled down, he said, he would ask the State Home Secretary to convene a meeting immediately. He later met the Congress president and apprised her about the political situation in the State and matters related to coalition. Congress is the second largest party with 17 MLAs after National Conference which has 28 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly. During the meeting, Omar also discussed a possible reshuffle in his two-year-old Government, official sources said. The Chief Minister during his meeting with the Home Minister also discussed recommendations made by Interlocutors and the present militancy situation in the State. On the possibility of reopening of the Pathribal incident, which took place in 2000 and where three persons were killed by Army personnel who claimed that they were militants, the Chief Minister said there was no such demand and action would be taken against the guilty on the basis of the CBI investigation. 'The investigation was concluded. The CBI findings are there. Action has to be taken on the basis of those findings. I don’t think there is any demand to reopen the case,' he said. Omar said he had been assured by both Army chief General V K Singh and the new Northern Army Commander Lt General K T Patnaik that the issue would be dealt with in a transparent manner and anybody found guilty would be punished. Asked about the initiatives taken to bring back the Kashmiri Pandits, who had fled the Valley in the wake of militancy two decades back, Omar said his Government was making constant endeavour in this direction as without them, Kashmir is incomplete. 'It is our constant endeavour to bring back Kashmiri Pandits, who had left the Valley due to loss of sense of security. We want them to come back to a good atmosphere where they can feel secure. Without their return, Kashmir is incomplete,' he said. 'It was a very sad day. Whatever we say it would be not enough. Many attempts are being made so that they can gradually come back to the Valley,' he said. The Chief Minister said his Government was implementing a programme for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits by offering them employment avenues, transit and accommodation facilities. 'But this is a very small step. Until and unless the sense of security that was snatched away from Kashmiri Pandits is given back, probably they won’t come back home. We have to give them that sense of security,' he said.