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Manmohan Singh leads Congress team to Kashmir

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni arriving for an executive committee meeting in Srinagar on Saturday.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni arriving for an executive committee meeting in Srinagar on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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Separatists back ‘dialogue process’; civil groups cautious

As former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heading the Congress’s high-level policy group, arrived in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday for a “first-hand assessment,” separatists expressed willingness to back any “concrete dialogue process.”

“The visit is aimed at taking stock of the situation to update the policy and approach towards J&K,” said a local Congress leader.

Members of the influential civil society group, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies, presented a memorandum to the team. “We reminded the Congress leaders that that it was they who pledged the right to self-determination to the formerly princely state at the U.N. Security Council and supported conditional accession under Article 370 till the final settlement,” the memorandum said. The study centre had boycotted the visit of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week.

‘For sincere dialogue’

Coinciding with Dr. Singh’s visit, a joint statement from separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, backed “any sincere, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue among J&K, India and Pakistan.”

“We regret that instead of creating a conducive environment for such a process, the Indian state sees the issue as a law and order and administrative problem and as such is focused on enhancing its military power. In this grim situation of oppression, the rhetoric to hold a dialogue for the permanent resolution of Kashmir issue is an excuse to flee from the dialogue table and put the onus on our leadership,” reads the statement.

Hurriyat sources said the recently-held meeting at Mr. Geelani’s residence “did discuss Mr. Singh’s Kashmir visit but decided against holding any meeting till concrete measures are taken on the ground”.

A Congress spokesman said the team, comprising Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and AICC general secretary Ambika Soni, met State party leaders and civil society groups, including traders’ bodies and tourism groups.”

Civil society cautious

The KCSDS memorandum accused the Congress of “reneging from its commitments by changing the nomenclature of prime minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat, abolishing the entry permit system into Kashmir in 1960, discarding Sadr-e-Riyasat”.

The civil society group asked the Congress team “to demonstrate sincerity and seriousness by educating the public opinion and earn confidence of people of J&K by promoting settlement of Kashmir in accordance with the promises made to the people of Kashmir”. It also demanded that the Congress ask its lawyers to defend Article 35A in the Supreme Court.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 11:38:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/manmohan-singh-leads-congress-team-to-kashmir/article19700521.ece

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