Grievances of Kashmiri youth to be addressed: PM


New Delhi : Hours before he chairs a crucial Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting on the situation in Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday renewed his offer of a peace dialogue “to every person or group” in the violence-hit state.

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“We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our constitution,” the prime minister said while addressing a conference of army commanders here.

“The unrest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir over the last few weeks is a matter of concern. The youth of Kashmir are our citizens and their grievances have to be addressed,” Manmohan Singh said.

“We have to ensure better delivery of services and generate avenues for economic advancement for the people of that state,” he stressed.

The prime minister’s statement has raised expectations in political circles that the CCS will decide on several initiatives, including revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) from the urban areas in both Kashmir and Jammu regions.

A senior National Conference leader told IANS that an employment package and a relief package for the dependents of the those killed in the recent violence are expected to be finalised by the CCS and the cabinet later.

The CCS meeting is likely to be held Monday evening, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.

The CCS, which is presided by the prime minister, comprises Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P. Chidambaram Monday morning and apprised them of the latest situation in the violence-hit valley.

A senior National Conference leader told IANS that “the CM repeated the plea for lifting of the AFPSA from urban areas”.

“He feels a political initiative has to begin,” the party leader added.

The move to lift AFPSA from parts of Jammu and Kashmir has been vehemently opposed by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Any such move will demoralise the security forces deployed in the state,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here Sunday.

A meeting of top leaders of the BJP, presided over by senior leader L.K. Advani, here demanded that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah be replaced by a “more acceptable person”.

Developments in New Delhi come amid reports from Kashmir, where curfew continued for the second consecutive day Monday, of street protests erupting again following an Iranian channel reporting that the Quran was desecrated in the United States.

Three more people have been killed in the valley, taking the toll of those killed since June 11 to 73.

Kashmir has been rocked by a cycle of violence triggered by street protests since June 11 and retaliatory firing by security forces.