Vohra holds out ‘olive branch’ to separatists

The appointment of a “special representative” by the government of India to hold talks with various shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir is recognition of the concern for widening the constituency of peace and include even those who may have contrary ideological convictions, governor NN Vohra said on Tuesday and reiterated the need to “regain the lost trust and negate the misgivings in certain sections of the society.”

Seeking involvement of all sections of the society in the dialogue process, the governor said that the government appeals to all those who had earlier “refused” to be part of the peace process to come forward and accept the special representative’s offer for engaging in dialogue.

Pertinently, the joint resistance leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik categorically refused to be a part of parleys with the “special representative” for a dialogue in Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma, calling it a “futile exercise.”

In his address to joint sitting of lawmakers on opening day of the budget session of the legislature here, Vohra said that the initiative (interlocutor’s appointment) is “in tune with the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address, reflecting his concern and empathy for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“The government is hopeful that, soon enough, all segments shall come forward for a dialogue and all issues would find resolution. The challenges will be met only through dialogue, which is the best means of resolving all disagreements,” he said.

Vohra said that the government firmly believes that the elected and the electorate have “equal stakes” in the peace process.

Terming the peace as a “great force multiplier”, the governor hoped that as the engagement with all the stakeholders gains ground, there will be a “yearning for peace and when it will come, it will create its own externalities.”

“Let us resolve that from now onwards the problems faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the recent years will not be allowed to become the baggage of the future and that the anxieties of our people will be replaced by aspirations of a safe and prosperous future,” the governor said.

Referring to the happenings in 2016—when Kashmir saw massive protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani—the governor underlined the need to focus on issues related to the interests of the neglected and marginalised groups.

“Such sensitivity is already discernible in the government’s recent policy initiatives and, hopefully, over the time, appropriate policies will put the state on the path of sustained peace and development,” he said, and expressed the hope that year 2018 shall be “the harbinger of an era of peace for J&K.”

“As exemplified by the chief minister’s ongoing outreach programme to various districts, the government is taking varied steps to extend the reach of governance. It is hoped that the civil society at large will support and supplement the government’s efforts towards building an enduring narrative of peace and development in the state,” he said.

The government has taken the required initiatives to see that the “worries” of the youth are resolved and they get positively engaged in every arena of activity, Vohra said.

“A number of students were charged for stone-pelting in 2016. As a goodwill gesture and to encourage the youth to return to their normal lives, the government has announced an amnesty scheme for the first-time offenders, the process of withdrawal of cases, with the permission of the concerned courts, has already been initiated,” he said.

He also regretted that women and children are among those who have suffered the most from the “recurring disturbances” in Kashmir.

“Side-by-side, recognising the serious visual disabilities suffered by youth who received pellet injuries, the government has decided to rehabilitate them and mitigate their sufferings to the maximum possible extent,” he said.

“Our youth who have been influenced and misled into deviating from the path, (but) the government remains committed to weaning them away from the purveyors of violence. Thus, the real battle is not on the streets but to combat and counter the deviation of the younger generation from the inherited values of the society. The government is committed to patiently listening to the youth and to do everything to bring them back to the fold,” the governor said.

Recalling that for the past several months the government forces have been successfully carrying out “targeted anti-militancy operations”, the governor hoped that these shall involve the “least possible collateral damage to the lives and properties of innocent persons.”

While saluting the army, central armed police forces and the J&K police personnel who have been operating in the “most difficult circumstances”, the governor recounted the government’s initiatives for the welfare of their families and NoKs.

The governor said that the government is also committed to look after the Kashmiri Pandits who chose to stay back when their brethren left the Valley during the period of peak militancy.

Recognising the “sacrifices” made by the Kashmir based Pandits, the government has authorised their special recruitment under the Prime Minister’s package, at par with their migrant brethren, he said. GKNN

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