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Delhi’s ‘experiments’ have pushed JK several years back: Omar

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Nov 26: The NDA government’s handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in an ad-hoc and experimental manner has pushed the state several years back, former chief minister Omar Abdullah claimed on Monday.

After a hectic political week, Omar feels the BJP is yet to answer many questions, including “why it entered an alliance with the PDP and why it withdrew all of a sudden?”

Another question which the people of the state will definitely be asking is why despite having 26 MLAs, the BJP decided to lend support to a two-member party (led by Sajad Lone), he said.

 

With his National Conference already into election mode, Omar criticised the BJP over its handling of the political turmoil in Kashmir. “Keeping in mind the 2019 elections, the BJP keeps changing its goalposts, confusing people. They have pushed the state several years back,” he claimed.

Commenting on the alliance of ‘conflicting and contrasting’ ideologies, Omar told PTI, “When the BJP and the PDP united, it was stated that the north pole and the south pole had come together and an ‘Agenda of Alliance’ had been stitched. Has any of the promises been fulfilled by them? Now see what has happened in Jammu and Kashmir… Look at the present political crisis in the state.”

“Forget about initiating talks with Pakistan, they refuse to hold a dialogue with separatists,” he said.

About the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Omar said, “In 2011 or 2012, there was a talk about AFSPA’s withdrawal from some areas, as peace had returned. But, can we say that today. The footprint of the Army and para-military forces has doubled from where we left in 2014, only because all types of experiments were carried out in Kashmir and all of them failed.”

The vice president of the National Conference reiterated his views on the “unceremonious” dissolution of the state assembly by Governor Satya Pal Malik on November 21.

“Till a few days ago, the governor wanted to keep the assembly alive. Overnight, it changed only because the PDP staked claim to form a government with the help of the Congress and my party,” he said.

“Within no time, the BJP and its proxies pulled out their weapon of mass destruction — Pakistan. We were accused of attempting to form a government at the behest of Pakistan. Can you beat it? Can someone ask them (the BJP) how did Mehbooba ji turn into a Pakistani suddenly when barely five months ago she was their alliance chief minister?” he said.

For the BJP, it seems my-way-or-highway policy but they need to be reminded that India is a democratic country, Omar said.

“The BJP had swept the Jammu region in previous assembly elections but today, they stand exposed. They will have to do a lot of answering this time. And one should not forget (to ask) why was the assembly kept in suspended animation. Was it done to allow Lone to keep on poaching MLAs from other parties, either with money or by threatening to open cases using the NIA and the CBI,” he added.

Asked about the Twitter spat with BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, Omar said, “Look I’m a fairly thick-skinned person when I need to be… If he (Madhav) had challenged my patriotism, I would have cared two hoots for his utterances. I don’t need anyone’s certificate about my patriotism, nor will I ever be pressured into wearing it on my sleeves.

“But the question was about my workers, nearly 3,000 of them, who have been targeted by Pakistani groups only because they refuse to join an anti-India bandwagon. These people died because we held on to the flag of the nation as soldiers do with the only difference being that my colleagues had no weapons to defend themselves with.”

Omar also drew attention to media reports that quoted senior BJP leader Seshadri Chari about a meeting he had with the NC leader in London, saying he had rejected the idea of forming a government with the BJP even then.

About Madhav’s tweets, Chari was quoted by a web portal as saying, “If somebody decides to be a political novice, we can do nothing about it.” However, he had said that it was not the party’s official stand.

To a question on a possible alliance with the Congress at a time when the National Conference has been favouring a single-party rule, Omar said, “Yes, I would wish to have a single party rule as there have been coalition governments since 2002. But having said that let me make it clear that it’s my opinion and I am yet to consult my senior party colleagues.”

“I need to consult them before arriving at a final decision,” he said, and added with a smile, “our party works democratically”.

Asked whether a third front led by Lone would be a force to reckon with in the forthcoming elections, he said, “Let us see. Let the centre first announce dates for the assembly elections.”

 

‘What are Norwegians upto in Kashmir?’

Srinagar, Nov 26: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Monday asked Government of India to put in “correct context” the recent visit of former Norwegian premier to both parts of divided Kashmir.

Taking to Twitter, Omar asked foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and national Security Advisor Ajit Doval to clear the stand on the recent visit of former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik to Kashmir parts.

“What are the Norwegians up to in Kashmir? Would either @SushmaSwaraj ji or Doval ji care to put the visit of the former Norwegian PM to both sides of the divided state in the correct context or do we have to rely on rumours & conjecture?” Omar wrote on his twitter handle.

Soon after the tweet, when News18 network reported that Omar was upset over the Norwegian leader’s visit, the NC leader replied: “Please show me where in my tweet I’ve said or even hinted I’m upset? All I’m asking is for some clarity as to what is happening. Please don’t use my shoulder to fire the gun of your agenda. For the record I’m NOT upset in the least & welcome any initiative to break the ice.”

On November 23, Bondevik met two top Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who briefed the former Norwegian premier about the “fragile” political situation in Kashmir and the need for a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Bodevik then went to New Delhi where he met top political bigwigs, according to media reports.

Bodovik also visited the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir Muzaffarabad, and discussed the “latest situation” in Jammu and Kashmir with the PaK president Sardar Masood Khan.

Bondevik briefed PaK president Khan about his visit to Srinagar and a meeting with the Joint Resistance Leadership there, reports said.

Norway has a history of resolving conflicts in several countries in a peaceful manner.


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Biz leaders of JK, PaK meet in Tashkent

Appeal India, Pak to resume cross LoC trade

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jun 24: For the first time since the Cross LoC trade was suspended, the business leaders of Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad met in Tashkent and decided to approach the respective governments for early resumption of the trade.

The decision was taken in a three-day conference of the business leaders of both sides of LoC, which is currently underway in the Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Six business leaders representing Chambers of Commerce of Kashmir and Jammu are participating in the conference, which started on Sunday. 

Trade leaders from Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Traders Union Rawalakot are representing the business community of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) in the conference.

 

The three-day meet has been organized by Muzaffarabad-based Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), which works to “promote peace and development at all levels through dialogue, reconciliation and reforms.”

On the second day of the conference on Monday, the traders resolved to convey to their respective governments the need for early resumption of cross LoC trade.

President Kashmir Chamber (KCC&I), Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, while speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Tashkent, said the traders held threadbare deliberations on the resumption and strengthening of the Cross LoC trade.

“It was resolved that all the Chambers will take up the matter related to the reopening of Cross LoC trade with the respective governments,” he said.

On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the Cross-LoC trade in J&K, saying that it was being used for “funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” into the state.

More than 280 traders were hit by the decision. Figures reveal that goods worth Rs 6,900 crore were traded on both sides since the inception of the trade in 2008.

On the alleged transporting of incriminating material through the route, Ahmad said the traders pledged to push their respective governments for framing Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for ensuring greater transparency in the trade.

“We are for the transparency of the trade. Both the countries should frame SOPs wherein necessary measures should be taken to check such activities. It was made amply clear that the traders should concentrate on the trade while as the government must ensure transparency,” he said.

The participants also realised that the suspension of the Cross trade was causing huge losses to the business community on both the sides.

“Traders on both the sides of LoC are incurring huge losses. The Cross LoC trade was the biggest Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. It should be resumed immediately,” said the president, KCC&I.

He said the conference was aimed at exploring all options to ensure hassle-free trade across the border. 

Before suspension, the Cross LoC trade was being carried out for four days a week on both routes—Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote.

Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond the barter system.

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Mehbooba welcomes Hurriyat’s readiness for dialogue

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Srinagar, Jun 24: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed the Hurriyat Conference willingness to hold talks with the Centre saying it was ‘better late than never’.

“Dair aye durust aye [better late than never]. The underlying purpose of the PDP-BJP alliance was to facilitate dialogue between the GoI & all stakeholders. Tried my best to make it happen in my tenure as Chief Minister but relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba said in a tweet.

Mehbooba Mufti was referring to Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s call for a tripartite talk between the Kashmiri leadership, New Delhi and Islamabad for resolution of all issues, including Kashmir.

 

Besides touching on the need for a dialogue during his Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz in his Eid-ul Fitr sermon earlier this month had sought confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan that could facilitate the revival of talks between the two countries.

Governor Satya Pal Malik, while addressing a function in Srinagar on Saturday, had said the Hurriyat had softened its stand and were ready for talks after he took charge of the state in August last year.

“The Hurriyat Conference was not willing to talk. Ram Vilas Paswan was standing at their door (in 2016) but they were not ready to talk. Today, they are ready for talks and want to hold dialogue. There is change in everyone,” Satya Pal Malik said.

The governor’s statement has given rise to speculations that the Centre might be opening dialogue channels with the separatists in Kashmir in near future.

Talks must be held with them: Farooq

Srinagar, Jun 24: Two days after Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Central government, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that talks must be held.

“The Governor says Hurriyat has agreed to talks. Then, talks should be held with them,” Abdullah told the media persons.

Contending that situation in J&K “is changing”, Governor Malik had on June 22 said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Centre.

“The ones who turned back Ram Vilas Paswan from their door, they are now ready for talks. The stone pelting after ‘namaz’ is almost over. We do not like it when a youngster dies,” Malik had said at a function.

“But when a bullet is fired, bullets will be fired in retaliation. That is the reality and this change in stance by them is a welcome sign,” Malik had further added.

He had also acknowledged Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement in which he had expressed concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state.

Within ‘ambit of Constitution’: BJP

Srinagar, Jan 24: BJP’s JK Affairs in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna has said that the Government of India was ready for talks with the Hurriyat ‘within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.’

Khanna also said that this was being done to win the trust of every individual in the state.

“We are open for talks. Hurriyat leaders are own people, they are the residents of J&K so they are most welcome to talk to us including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but within the ambit of Indian constitution,” Khanna said.

Earlier, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that she is relived that Hurriyat has softened their stand regarding talks with the Government of India.

Recently, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s said that Hurriyat is ready for talks.

In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that if Government of India initiates ‘meaningful dialogue’, there will be a ‘positive response’.

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J&K Reservation Bill introduced in LS

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jun 24: People living along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir will get benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in professional courses on par with those living along the Actual Line of Control (ALoC), according to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will replace an ordinance issued by the previous government.

The Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah who was present in the House.

 

Some members from the Opposition wanted to oppose introduction of the bill but speaker Om Birla rejected their demand, saying they had not followed the procedure for doing so.

The bill seeks to provide relief to people living in areas adjoining the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. They can now avail benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.

The bill once passed by Parliament will amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bring persons residing in areas adjoining the IB within the ambit of reservation, on par with those living in areas adjoining the ALoC.

The rules provided for reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories, including residents of areas adjoining ALoC.

Those living in areas adjoining the IB in Jammu and Kashmir were not  included in the ambit of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and Rules, 2005 and were deprived of benefits.

Due to continuous cross-border tensions, people living along the IB suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels residents to move to safer places, which adversely impacts their education as schools and colleges remain closed for long periods.

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