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Vohra will stay, talks soon: Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 6
As violence continues to rage in Jammu and Kashmir, the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today to discuss the situation in the state unanimously decided to initiate an immediate dialogue with the protesters in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the Amarnath shrine land row issue.

It was also agreed that an all-party delegation would visit the state to restore confidence among the people and assess the situation on the ground. UPA sources said the delegation, which is likely to be headed by home minister Shivraj Patil, may leave for the state within the next couple of days.

The marathon meeting, attended by representatives of all major political parties, ended with a joint appeal for the restoration of normalcy and ďan early return of peaceĒ in the communally sensitive region also driven by separatism and terrorism.

However, the Centre made it amply clear that there was no question of recalling Governor N.N. Vohra , a demand made by the Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti, spearheading the agitation in Jammu and demanding the restoration of land which was to be made available for the annual Amarnath yatra.

Briefing mediapersons after the meeting, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee emphasised that there was all-round agreement that the first step was the restoration of peace and normalcy in the state and that communalisation of the situation be prevented as this would have an adverse impact on the nationís secular fabric. He said it was also agreed that all necessary facilities would be provided for the Amarnath pilgrims.

Shivraj Patil, who was also present at the briefing, said the dialogue with all those involved in the ongoing agitation would begin immediately, adding that this could be conducted both by the Governor and the Centre. As a first step, the Governor constituted a four-member committee to initiate this dialogue process with those spearheading the agitation.

The unanimous agreement arrived at todayís meeting was in sharp contrast to the BJPís belligerent stand adopted publicly by the party, which has been supporting the month-long violent agitation in Jammu. BJP president Rajnath Singh, who pressed his partyís demand for the restoration of land to the Shri Amanath Shrine Board, eventually consented to be a signatory to todayís unanimous agreement. On its part, the Centre met the BJP halfway and agreed to initiate a dialogue with the protesters.

This compromise was arrived at after a four-hour meeting where all parties reiterated their respective positions. The government insisted that the BJP ask its supporters to withdraw the agitation, while the BJP wanted the land to be restored to the shrine board. Former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who gave a factual account of this entire row, explained that there was a proposal to allocate land for setting up temporary structures for the yatris but the land was never transfered to the shrine board.

According to Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav it was National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah who suggested that an all-party delegation go to Jammu and talk to the samiti members directly, thus commencing the process of negotiations.Yadav said he also persuaded BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley as well as Ghulam Nabi Azad and finally brought them round.

Meanwhile, Uma Bharti and Sangh Priya Gautam were today not allowed to go inside the Prime Ministerís residence on the Race Course road. The duo sat in protest saying they were not invited for the all party meeting that was convened by the Prime Minister.

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