The United Progressive Alliance government appeared to be satisfied with the outcome of the all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, with the mood among the Opposition leaders present “serious and conciliatory” and “without rancour.”
A government source told The Hindu: “As this is a national issue of a huge scale, it is important that all political parties put their heads together and work towards a solution. A good beginning was made in that direction today.”
The government was also relieved that all those who gathered on Wednesday agreed to – with many even suggesting – an all-party team's visit to the Valley, something that it was working for. This was the first concrete decision after days of discussions without any outcome and the next step had been defined, the sources said.
Given that Wednesday's meeting came against the backdrop of continuing violence in the Valley, and criticism of both the Union and State governments from the Opposition for not able to control the situation, members of the government present at the meeting were pleasantly surprised at the constructive approach of these parties. “There was no criticism of the government; no strident demands to know what we had come up with,” the sources said.
Despite the differences on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), everyone agreed that it was important to rise above party politics while “looking for a solution” within the constitutional framework.
The sources said they were pleasantly surprised by BJP president Nitin Gadkari's speech, which was almost statesmanlike. There also appeared to be a consensus that those behind the stone-pelters were not terrorists, but some others. It was important, therefore, to find out who these people were, what was motivating the youth and old women to take to the streets.
No attack on Omar
Surprisingly, there was virtually no attack on Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah: Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was the only one to point out that Mr. Abdullah's not being in Kashmir on Eid sent out a negative message in the Valley, reflecting the “governance deficit” that the Union government had taken note after the last meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security.
People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, who was the second last of the 30-odd speakers at the meeting, also made an oblique reference to Mr. Abdullah's governance record. The sources said she pointed out that the trouble in the Valley did not start on June 11, but a year-and-half back, when the NC-Congress government was sworn in.
Star of the show
The star of the show, the sources said, was Ms. Mufti, who did not make any extreme statements. One senior government source said she made an impassioned but balanced speech. There was no bitterness in her speech, and she acknowledged that the situation was a difficult one, even beginning by pointing out how difficult it was for her to get from Srinagar to Delhi as the main airport was closed.
Making a reference to an unfortunate remark made by Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi – who struck a discordant note – who said, Kashmir was being held with the help of the Army, she said that while she agreed that Kashmir was an inalienable part of India, people should realise that it was important not just to hold the territory but also the hearts and the minds of the people who lived there.