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August 21, 2000
Talks with Hizb set to resume, says Farooq
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said on Monday that the ground had been prepared for restarting the derailed peace process in Kashmir.
"The recent statements of the central government and the Hizbul Mujahideen on the peace initiative are positive signs," Dr Abdullah told reporters in Srinagar after a meeting of the Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board.
He said, "Going by past experience, this time the talks will be held secretly. There will be no media hype. Now the question is how soon the ball starts rolling."
Asked about the Hizb charge that his government was trying to divide the valley on communal lines with its plan for the return of Kashmiri Pandit migrants, he said, "Perhaps it has not been understood in the right perspective. We are not dividing the valley. What we propose to do is to create transit camps where the migrants will stay under security and get their damaged houses reconstructed and existing structures repaired to facilitate their return to their homes."
The chief minister said the government did not want to get involved in rebuilding the houses, but proposed to give the migrants grants for the purpose.
He said, "It must be understood that it is not possible to give security at individual houses. [Hence we are creating] areas where they can temporarily stay and complete the work of reconstruction or repairs in the first phase. In the second phase, they can move out to their homes and live in harmony as in the past."
Meanwhile, three soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded when militants attacked an army transit camp with rockets at Banihal on Monday afternoon. Police said the injured jawans were shifted to hospital.
Militants fired several rockets at the camp, hitting barracks inside and killing three soldiers on the spot. The area was later searched by troops.
In the Kashmir valley life was crippled by a general strike called by the Al-Umar militant outfit. Shops and business establishments remained closed and there was very little traffic on the roads. A bomb explosion in the morning in the old city resulted in injuries to a bystander. Tight security remained in force in the city and other major towns.
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