As both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in meetings with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, he said on Monday that the Centre wouldl not go against people's sentiments on Article 35A, which grants special rights to locals on property and jobs.
“There are no issues left, which is why such issues are being raised,” he told a conference here.
Article 35A has been challenged through three petitions in the Supreme Court, which will again hear them in November.
‘Ready for talks with all’
“The Centre is ready to hold talks with anyone. I am inviting everyone willing to help us in resolving the problems of Kashmir. We have never opposed talks. All stakeholders are welcome,” he said.
The National Investigation Agency, which has detained a number of separatist leaders since June, “was acting according to the law of the land.” “This should not deter those who want to talk to the government.”
Referring to a “permanent solution of Kashmir,” he said five Cs — compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence-building, and consistency — would be its basis.
The situation in Kashmir was “improving but not completely normal. What I have seen during the last two, three days has convinced me that the trees of peace have not dried up. I can see green buds of peace on these trees…If I have to come 50 times to bring peace to J&K, I will do that.”
Mr. Singh, who met around 55 delegations, asked the security agencies to ensure “no excesses are committed during operations” and “not to treat minors as criminals.”
“Minors must be dealt with under the juvenile justice system and not be put in jails. They must be properly counselled,” he said.
In Jammu, the Union Minister visited the BSF campus at Naushera and took stock of operational preparedness on the Line of Control and International Boundary.
Mr. Singh said fewer people were injured in crowd control this year.
“We introduced the PAVA gun to replace the pellet gun, but I was told it is not very effective,” he said. The Minister asked Pakistan “to stop infiltrating terrorists into J&K”.
He appealed to tourists and tourist organisations to visit Kashmir. “The people of Kashmir are ready to welcome you. They want to turn it into heaven again,” he said.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah welcomed Mr. Singh’s stand on Article 35A, while Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a “final settlement.”
“This is a very important statement from the Union Home Minister. His assurance will go a long way towards silencing the noises against 35A. The Union government must now file a counter-affidavit in the Supreme Court to defend 35A. That is the way to carry this assurance forward,” Mr. Abdullah said.
Mr. Geelani called for “a peaceful resolution to Kashmir through the Indian Independence Act of 1947.”