However they failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of withdrawal or dilution of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The five-and-a-half hour meeting, during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L K Advani and leaders of other parties presented their views, however, was unanimous over the need for internal dialogue within the framework of Indian Constitution.
There was sharp division on AFSPA, whose revocation was demanded by PDP and NC but opposed by BJP and some other parties.
At the meeting, Singh and other leaders voiced distress and concern over the continuing violence in the state and the loss of life.
Setting the tone, Singh said the government was willing to talk to anybody or any group which adopts peaceful means but asserted that it could not happen till the end of violence, some of which is “orchestrated by certain groups”.
A statement issued at the end of the marathon meeting said the leaders agreed that the Indian Constitution provides ample scope to “accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations.”
Accordingly, it was decided that all-party delegation would be sent to Jammu and Kashmir, dates for which were not announced immediately.
“The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion. The visit of the all-party delegation would be facilitated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement said.
“The Government will take into account the deliberations at today’s meeting while considering measures and initiatives to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” it said, adding the feedback received from the all-party delegation would form an important input into the Government’s evolving response on various issues relating to the state.
During the meeting, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, whose party is the main opposition in Jammu and Kashmir, favoured immediate revocation of AFSPA and withdrawal of armed forces from civil areas and release of political prisoners and “innocent detenues”.
National Conference, which was represented by its chief Farooq Abdullah, also sought revocation of AFSPA, at least partially, failing which amend it to make it “humane”.
The demand of the parties from the state was supported by the Left parties and LJP.
However, parties like BJP, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party and RJD opposed any such move, saying nothing should be done to demoralise the forces.
BJP said that the party would support any dialogue within the framework of Indian Constitution but violence should end.
Appealing for peace, Prime Minister expressed sadness over the loss of lives and injuries suffered by the people, the police and security personnel besides “huge disruption” in the daily lives of the common man and the financial losses suffered by various sections of the society in the state. (SS-15/09)
We must understand legitimate aspirations of Kashmiris: Sonia
Linking the turmoil in Kashmir to anger and pain among Kashmiri youth who grew up in “conflict and brutality”, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said their “legitimate aspirations” must be respected and a magnanimous approach adopted to give them hope.
Addressing an all-party meet on Kashmir in New Delhi, she pressed for a spirit of accommodation and reconciliation and said the “ideological and political differences” should be put aside as “we are facing far too serious a challenge to allow those differences to stand in the way of resolute, sensitive and appropriate actions”.
She said the Congress party is “more than willing” to support a process of “healing and dialogue in partnership” with the people of the state as she expressed deep sense of sorrow at the continuing loss of life in the state.
“We meet today against the backdrop of escalating violence in Kashmir. It cannot be too strongly said that words alone will not suffice,” Gandhi said at the meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“Together, let us arrive at suitable decisions on which we can all agree to break this vicious cycle of violence and suffering,” she said.
She said “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.”
Citing the Prime Minister’s statement that India’s democracy has “resilience to accommodate a diversity of problems”, the Congress President said “the people of Jammu and Kashmir are our people, they are our citizens.
“Let us demonstrate in a spirit of accommodation. This alone, I believe, can create space for reconciliation and bring and end to turmoil and conflict.”