Start talks now, also with Pakistan: Farooq

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Srinagar, April 24
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah today urged the Centre to immediately begin talks with all stakeholders including Pakistan for peace in Kashmir, without waiting for the situation to improve. “Talk now. You have to talk now and talk to stakeholders and talk to everyone,” he told reporters here.

He said Pakistan had to be brought on board, too. “Even if you are bitter with Pakistan, you have to talk to Pakistan. You have to bring them on board,” he said. The former chief minister, who won the recent bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, said the government should not wait for a “conducive atmosphere” before starting the dialogue.

“If the government really wants to talk so that peace is established, then they should not wait for the last stone to be hurled or the last bullet to be fired,” he added.

India, he stressed, stood for the rights of the people. Denying those rights would create “further wounds and alienation” among the people of Kashmir. “We are digging the grave of democracy if we do not talk,” he warned, and called for “respecting” the Indian Constitution.

“Why do they not respect the Constitution that they swear by? You ban internet, you ban whatever you have…You are not going to win the war of hearts by banning these things.”

Referring to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi today, the NC leader said the Centre and the state government had been saying for long that they would start a dialogue.

Abdullah said that for two years, there was talk about a dialogue with all stakeholders, including the Hurriyat. Former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had also said that talks would be held with Pakistan, he added.

“But nothing happened,” he said. “It is wonderful that the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister have met, (but) they must have discussed more than what we know.”

A delegation led by BJP leader and former minister Yashwant Sinha had recommended measures for Kashmir after a visit but “not a single item” had been taken up. He referred to the CM’s comment today that stone-pelters had to stop throwing stones for the talks to take place.

“Days before that, she said this gun culture must stop (and) then we will talk,” he said. “These things are not going to end.”

Asked if he endorsed stone-pelting, Abdullah replied that he supported the people as they were fighting for their rights which had been denied to them.

“What are they fighting for? They are not fighting for the Chief Minister’s post, MP’s post or MLA’s post. They are fighting for the rights of the people,” he said.

He stressed that the NC had been requesting the Centre “over and over” to initiate talks so that concrete steps for peace in Kashmir could be taken.

“They had a discussions in (former Prime Minister A B) Vajpayee’s time, (former deputy prime minister L K) Advani’s time, also met (the separatists) and certain recommendations were made. But nothing was done,” he said.

The former Union Minister said the government had to be sincere in wishing for a dialogue. “Otherwise, if it is just to buy time, then it is going to be a failure. AFSPA will also be settled once you have peace.”

On recent student protests in Kashmir, the NC leader said the situation would continue to be tense unless “the main situation” was addressed.

“I feel sad, really sad that our children are going to suffer and they are not going to be able to get their education,” he said. “Education is the basis of tomorrow.”

Reiterating his call for Governor’s Rule in the state, Abdullah said if the government had been able to “serve and deliver”, he would not have made this demand.

He said his party would support any decision of the central or state government for the prosperity of Kashmir, but not side with them if the decision was going to be destructive.

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