M A I N   N E W S

POTA not necessary, says Home Minister
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
Asserting that the government did not consider the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) as ‘necessary’, the new Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today indicated that the Centre could amend or allow the Act to expire.

Mr Patil also asserted that the dialogue process initiated by the Vajpayee government in Kashmir and with militant groups in North-Eastern states would continue.

He, however, did not say categorically whether the Centre’s interlocutor for Kashmir talks, Mr N N Vohra, would continue or would be replaced.

“We will have to examine its (POTA’s) various aspects...whether we should repeal it, allow it to expire or amend it suitably to prevent its abuse or misuse,” Mr Patil told newspersons soon after assuming office of Home Minister at North Block here.

Asked that the Law Minister had stated that he would be submitting his views on POTA to Home Ministry, he said “This is a coalition government. We will have to consult every ally of ours before taking the matter to the Cabinet.”

When he was asked to make it clear whether POTA would be repealed or amended, he said “Please wait for the Common Minimum Programme (CMP)”. The CMP was expected to be announced on May 27.

Mr Patil said, “My party’s (Congress) stand on POTA is well known. Now that we have taken over, we will have to see all aspects of this law.”

With Left parties and Southern allies of the Congress being strongly opposed to the anti-terrorism measure, the draft CMP described the law as ‘grossly misused’ in the last two years and suggested its abrogation.

While Law Minister H R Bharadwaj said the Congress-led government did not relish POTA and steps would be taken to repeal or amend the statute, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was of the view that the government would go by the Common Minimum Programme (CMP).

On Kashmir dialogue, Mr Patil said the Congress-led government would continue the dialogue process in both Kashmir and North-Eastern states.

“Our stand is very clear that dialogue is the best means...We will continue the good work done by the previous government, wherever corrective measures are needed steps will be taken and wherever mistakes have been made they will be identified and removed,” Mr Patil said.

On continuation of dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference, he said, “We will see how talks have taken place, how it has to be continued, when and under what environment talks should be held and what will be the issues have to be looked into. I will seek the help and cooperation of all concerned.”

Asked whether Centre’s interlocutor for Kashmir N N Vohra would be removed, Mr Patil merely said, “I know him (Mr Vohra) from my days in defence production. He has been working very hard under difficult circumstances.”

Listing his priorities, Mr Patil said he would like to ensure that terrorism was curbed and there was law and order, harmony and peace across the country.

Terming as ‘unfortunate’ yesterday’s terrorist attack on Jammu-Srinagar highway, in which 35 BSF personnel and their family members were killed, Mr Patil said all steps would be taken to ensure that the culprits were dealt with iron hands.

As an immediate step, Mr Patil said Mr B.B. Misra, Special Secretary (Kashmir Affairs), Union Home Ministry and BSF Director-General Ajai Raj Sharma had been sent to Srinagar, who will be submitting a detailed report on the incident.

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