NEW DELHI (Agencies) – An all parties conference, which was convened by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve spiralling protests in Occupied Kashmir, ended in a deadlock on Wednesday, even as five more protesters were killed in police clashes.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan’s APC came two days after 18 people were killed in the worst single episode of violence in two decades of Kashmiris struggle against Indian rule and are the latest in a three-month long series of protests.
The five-and-a-half hour meeting, during which PM Manmohan, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader LK Advani and leaders of other parties presented their views, however, was unanimous over the need for internal dialogue within the framework of Indian Constitution.
The meeting failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of withdrawal or dilution of a widely-hated law – Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – that gives the Indian occupation army and paramilitary forces immunity from prosecution in case of civilian killings in the region. The only decision taken was to send an all-party delegation of politicians to Kashmir to assess the ground situation, dates for which were not announced immediately.
The AFSPA also enables the army and paramilitary forces to detain people indefinitely and is seen as fuelling a sense of injustice and military occupation for Kashmiris.
A statement issued at the end of the marathon meeting said the leaders agreed that the Indian Constitution provides ample scope to “accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations.”
“The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion,” the statement said.
The fact-finding mission will help inform policy making, the government said.
The Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the army and some government members oppose any lifting of the act.
Calling for calm, Indian PM Manmohan told the meeting at his residence in New Delhi that he was “shocked and distressed” by the demonstrations engulfing the region, saying that dialogue was the only way out of the crisis, but that peace and calm had to be restored first.
“The only path for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir is that of dialogue and discussion,” he said.
“While some of these protests may have been impulsive or spontaneous, it cannot be denied that some incidents were orchestrated by certain groups,” he said.
“What we have seen over the past three months must persuade us to reflect and deliberate on the way forward. We have to talk to each other.”
The leader of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, urged the government to listen to the angry new generation “that has grown up in the embrace of violence, of conflict and brutality.”
“We must give them hope, we must understand and respect their legitimate aspirations,” she added, while stressing that the region was an integral part of India.
She urged all political parties to put aside their ideological and political differences. She said; “The challenge is too serious to allow differences to get in way.”
Adding further Sonia said, “I share the anguish of those who have lost their loved ones.”
Expressing satisfaction over the result of the meeting, Union Minister for Renewable Resources Farooq Abdullah told the media persons that PM Manmohan has no trust deficit in Omar Abdullah’s government in IHK.
The Opposition leader of J&K and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said mere words are not enough. The government should take a concrete and not a cosmetic step forward in this direction. “Unconditional dialogue is crucial and pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders should be included in the talks to find a meaningful solution to the crisis.”
During the meeting, Mehbooba favoured immediate revocation of AFSPA and withdrawal of armed forces from civil areas and release of political prisoners and “innocent detenues”.
APHC Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani denounced the outcome of the meeting as “cosmetic”, and called for Indian troops to leave the state.
“We will intensify our struggle if India does not accept our demands,” he said.
National Conference, which was represented by its chief Farooq Abdullah, also sought revocation of AFSPA, at least partially, failing which amend it to make it “humane”.
However, parties like the BJP, the Shiv Sena, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal opposed any such move, saying nothing should be done to demoralise the forces.