Journey to find Kashmir solution has begun: CongressSeptember 23, 2010
New Delhi: The Congress Wednesday said the move to send an all-party delegation to the troubled Jammu and Kashmir was the "beginning of a journey" to find an acceptable solution to the problems in the state where over 100 people have been killed, mostly in firing by security forces, in the last three months of street protests.
The 39-member delegation of Indian politicians met almost 1,000 people from a cross- section of society in the state during their three-day trip and heard people until Tuesday midnight before returning to New Delhi from Jammu.
The Congress said it "fully" backed the initiative by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government it leads.
"It (the visit) is not focused on results. It is beginning of a journey. If stakeholders move in a positive spirit, then an acceptable solution can be found in the national interest," Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.
Singhvi said it was significant that an initiative and political parties with different ideologies came together and talked to a cross-section of opinions in the state.
Asked about the autonomy demand by the National Conference, the Congress spokesperson said the issue had not been spurned and there were "different contents of autonomy on the table".
He said each regional and national party was entitled to give its opinion and hearing extreme views didn't mean that the government accepted them.
Singhvi said the removal or dilution of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was a "delicate issue" and avoided to speak about the demands for its revocation raised by mainstream and separatist parties in the Kashmir Valley.
The act which has come under severe criticism over its alleged misuse by the Indian Army gives sweeping powers to the force in its counter-terror operations.
Members of the central delegation met hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani twice Monday evening and Tuesday morning and also visited moderates -- All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front's (JKLF) Yasin Malik in Srinagar and jailed president of the Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Shah in Jammu.
This was being touted as a "success" of the visit by some delegation members, especially Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sita Ram Yechury, who described the interaction with separatists as a "meaningful exercise".