Monday, February 12, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Negotiations only solution: George
Asks Sikhs to stay in Kashmir
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, Feb 11Giving a call to Sikhs to stay put in Kashmir, Defence Minister George Fernandes here today offered to extend all possible help to the community in the valley, saying that negotiations were the only solution to all problems.

Mr Fernandes, heading a Central team on its two-day visit to the valley, was addressing a huge gathering of Sikhs drawn from different parts of the valley on the occasion of the bhog of six Sikhs at Mahjoor Nagar here this afternoon. The six members of the community were killed while six others were injured in an attack by unidentified gunmen here last Saturday. The Central team included the Union Minister for Chemicals, Mr S.S. Dhindsa, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta, Member of Parliament, Mr S.S. Ahluwalia, the Vice-Chairman of the Minorities Commission, Mr Trilochan Singh, the president of the SGPC, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, and the president of the DSGM, Mr Avtar Singh Hitt.

Three separatist leaders, including P.D.P leader Shabir Ahmad Shah and Mr Abdul Ghani Lone and Mr Mohammad Yaseen Malik of the Hurriyat Conference, also addressed the gathering amid slogans from the Sikh youth in support of the migration of Sikhs.

The Defence Minister said during his two-day stay here he met deputations of the Sikh community and the family members of those killed and injured in the recent incident. He announced there was a need to solve the problems and any decisions regarding migration were to be taken through negotiations with the political leadership. He expressed grief and sorrow with the family members of those killed and the community in general.

Referring to the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir with the beginning of the Ramzan month, the Defence Minister said it was taken with a view to pave way for a solution. Mr George Fernandes denied the charges levelled by senior Hurriyat leader, Mohammad Yaseen Malik that the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, the Union

Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and George Fernandes were bent upon derailing the peace process in Kashmir.

Earlier, Hurriyat leaders, Mohammad Yasin Malik and Abdul Ghani Lone urged the Sikh community not to leave the valley as it was no solution to problems. “It was not an attack on the Sikhs, it was an attack on Kashmiris”, Mr Lone said. He said the incident of the killings of six Sikhs could have been prevented had the government taken adequate measures. In this connection, he referred to the killing of the autorickshaw driver Bilal Ahmad, which had reportedly led to the killing of the Sikhs.

Mohammad Yaseen Malik threatened to go to any extent even to lay down his life, to prevent the migration of the Sikhs from the valley. He said the Sikhs were part of the Kashmiris and all attempts to sow the seeds of communalism, (with its traditional communal harmony) would lead to trouble in the entire subcontinent. Mr Malik demanded an impartial probe into the killings of the Sikhs at Mahjoor Nagar and took exception to the fact that no such inquiries were taken for several other massacres in Kashmir. He said Kashmiri Muslims had also laid down their lives for the Sikhs and in this connection he referred to the killing of 12 persons while protesting against the sacrilege of Golden Temple. He also criticised the unilateral ceasefire which had become a “museebat” for the Kashmiris.

Senior separatist leader, Shabir Shah while appealing to the Sikh brethern to stay put in the valley, asked them to consult Kashmiri separatist leaders in any talks on the migration. Almost all leaders speaking on the occasion blamed the administration for the massacre as adequate measures were not taken to prevent the incident, following the killing of the autorickshaw driver, Bilal Ahmad, four days earlier.

Defence Minister George Fernandes, who is leading a Central team on its two-day visit to the valley, soon after its arrival here yesterday met a deputation of the Sikh community. This was in connection with the bhog ceremony of six Sikhs killed by gunmen here.

Expressing sympathies with the bereaved Sikh families on behalf of Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr Fernandes said that the Central Government was fully aware of the situation arising out of the killing of innocent Sikhs at Mahjoor Nagar and condemned this brutal act.

Mr Fernandes announced that injured Sikhs who were currently under treatment in various hospitals of Srinagar city would be shifted either to Chandigarh or Delhi for specialised treatment. During the past two days the Prime Minister held a number of meetings with his Cabinet colleagues to assess the situation and devise measures for the protection of the Sikh community in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister, George Fernandes here today attended a high level meeting of the Unified Headquarters to review the security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir.

An official spokesman stated here that Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah chaired the meeting attended by top civil, police and security forces’ officers in the state. Others who participated included Chief Secretary, Ashok Jaitly, Principal Secretary, Home, C. Phunsong, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Khursheed Ahmad Ganai, GoC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps of Army, Lt Gen J.R. Mukherjee, GoC of the Jammu-based 16 Corps of Army, Lt Gen. A.S. Khanna, Chiefs of the Staff of 15 and 16 Corps, Director General of Police, A.K. Suri, Additional Director, IB, S.K. Singh, Inspector Generals of Border Security Force, CRPF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, J&K Police and CID.

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