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Aug 10, 2008 at 06:17pm IST

Shivraj Patil reaches out to people of J-K

New Delhi: After a marathon all-party meeting, Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Sunday reached out to the people of Jammu by saying that there was consensus that the Amarnath yatra should continue. He also assured the people of Kashmir that the highway would not be blocked and an economic blockade wouldn’t be tolerated.

In a delicate balancing act, the Centre said all efforts will be made to resolve the Amarnath land issue in a manner that it does not hurt either the people of Jammu or Kashmir regions and announced that the victims of the agitation will be compensated.

The meeting comes a day after the leaders of Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, spearheading the agitation in Jammu, held talks with the all-party delegation led by Patil. No headway was made at the Jammu meeting as the Samiti stuck to its demand for restoration of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board and removal of Governor N N Vohra.

Observing that the talks to resolve the Amarnath issue will be held with whosoever it is necessary whether in Jammu or Kashmir, Patil said, "We will compensate the victims of the violence. We will compensate the near and dear ones of those who have been killed," he said, adding those who have suffered grievous injuries will also be compensated.

On the "economic blockade" of the Valley in the wake of the stir, the Home Minister said all measure would be taken to ensure that the Jammu-Srinagar national highway remains open at all times for transport of essential commodities and good.

However, a member of the delegation and Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad said the Sangharsh Samiti cannot be blamed for the economic blockade in the state.

“The Sangharsh Samiti workers have said that they are not causing any economic blockade. It is anti-social elements who are causing the blockade, they will be dealt with severely,” he said.

Meanwhile, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said she is only concerned about the traders of Kashmir.

“We want free trade across the borders. Fruits are rotting here in Jammu so doesn’t it make sense to initiate trade. Why is it being seen as anti-national? The entire nation seems to be siding with the 15-member shrine board. I have spoken about this in Parliament as well. There is no quick fix solution to communal tension. We have to tackle this effectively. No miscreant should be allowed to carry a flag in one hand and a petrol bomb in the other,” Mufti said.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq under house arrest

Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was on Sunday placed under house arrest, a day ahead of 'Muzaffarabad challo' programme announced by the separatists to counter the "economic blockade" of the Valley.

"Police sealed my house at Nigeen as well as Mirwaiz Manzil at Rajouri Kadal where a meeting of coordination committee was going on regarding 'Muzaffarabad challo' programme," Mirwaiz told PTI.

He said leaders of different political, religious, traders and fruit growers bodies were meeting to finalise the programme for Monday when the police action came.

Terming the government action as "unfortunate", Mirwaiz alleged that the government has been exhibiting this type of high-handedness for a long time.

However, he said that the programme will take place despite the restrictions. Hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani is already under house arrest for the last six days.

(With inputs from PTI)

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