The all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday decided to send a delegation of political leaders to the state to assess the ground situation, but failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of withdrawal or dilution of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke briefly during the meeting. Here is the text:
I thank the prime minister for calling this meeting. Before I begin I want to express my deep sense of sorrow at the continuing loss of life in Kashmir. I share the anguish of those who have lost their loved ones, and my heart goes out especially to the parents and families of children who have died.
We meet today against the backdrop of escalating violence in Kashmir. It cannot be, too, strongly said that words alone will not suffice. Together, let us arrive at suitable decisions on which we can all agree to break this vicious cycle of violence and suffering. Let us put aside our ideological and political differences. We are facing far too serious a challenge to allow those differences to stand in the way of resolute, sensitive and appropriate actions.
We know that there are some inimical forces within and beyond the State and we understand the extreme pressures and dangerous circumstances our police and security forces face in protecting our sovereignty and territorial integrity. But we also must ask ourselves why is there so much anger? Why is there so much pain, in particular amongst the youth? The young, especially, belong to a 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. We need to be magnanimous and mature in our approach, as befits a strong, confident and inclusive democracy.
As the prime minister last month observed and, I quote, "India's democracy has shown that it has the resilience to accommodate a diversity of aspirations and unique circumstances, and the capacity to solve complex problems." unquote. Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of our country and our democracy. The people of Jammu & Kashmir are our people, they are our citizens. Let us demonstrate it in a spirit of accommodation. This alone, I believe, can create space for reconciliation and bring an end to turmoil and conflict.
My party is more than willing to support a process of healing and dialogue in partnership with the people of Jammu & Kashmir.