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Home > News > Report

Centre tries to salvage J&K talks

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | March 04, 2004 18:08 IST

The Centre has initiated efforts to salvage peace talks with the separatist All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, the second round of which is expected to take place at the month-end in New Delhi.

Just when the Centre thought it was making headway in militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir, the Hurriyat threatened to pull out of the talks, citing atrocities by the security forces.

A series of alleged human rights violations by security forces has resulted in civilians holding violent protests all over the Kashmir valley.

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The protests have forced the central and state governments to act andprevent the situation in the Kashmir valley from deteriorating further.

Among the likely steps: subdued security operations against the militants, release of political prisoners and a public relations offensive by the security agencies apart from persuading the Hurriyat leaders not to pull out of the talks.

The J&K Unified Command, which is in charge of security in the state, met in Jammu on Thursday. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed strongly conveyed his displeasure over recent human rights violations to the generals. Union Home Secretary Anil Baijal attended the meeting as Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's representative. Advani met with Hurriyat leaders in Delhi in January.

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Sources in Srinagar say the security forces have already put in place several steps to reduce inconvenience to civilians and spruce up their image.

Army units have been told not to hire civilians as porters during anti-militancy operations.

Moreover, "entire operations, especially in populated areas, will not be left to young officers," said an army officer.

On Wednesday, Red Cross officials conducted a seminar on human rights for Border Security Force officers stationed in the Kashmir valley. More interactions are expected in coming days.

Security forces may be asked to go slow on anti-militancy operations and be extra careful towards civilians. "We are looking at various options," a senior officer said, hinting that search and cordon operations and strikes against terrorists hiding in Kashmir's villages may be kept on hold for sometime.

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On the political front, the state government will release another batch of political prisoners in coming days. The Centre has agreed to this, sources in Kashmir say, adding that the state government's screening committee has identified 60 individuals to be released.

At the same time, officials in Srinagar are persuading Hurriyat leaders, including its chairman Maulvi Abbas Ansari, not to pull out of the talks.

Advani will take a short break from his forthcoming yatra to keep his appointment with the separatist movement's leadership.

More reports from Jammu and Kashmir
Read about: The Road to Peace | Kargil Crisis

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