Shinde Says Wants To Meet Hurriyat Leaders


“Decision On AFSPA Only After Some Time, Case Of Once Bitten Twice Shy”

SRINAGAR (KO MONITORING DESK) – The union home minister, Suhil Kumar Shinde, has thrown broad hints of the centre wanting to revive dialogue with separatists in Kashmir, but said that a decision to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state would be taken “only after some time,” even though, according to him, New Delhi did not want to keep the military in the region “for long.”

“What’s the harm in (meeting separatists, including the Hurriyat Conference). They also live in India and some of them were MLAs too. I want to understand what they really want,” Shinde said in an interview to the PTI when asked about the dialogue process in Kashmir.

“The separatists should come forward and work together for betterment of younger generation, their education, welfare and better future,” he said.

The minister, who visited Jammu and Kashmir last month after taking over the Home portfolio in July, was asked about reducing the footprints of the security forces.

“Certainly security should be reduced, but this is not the proper time. We will still have to watch for some time,” he said.

He said that the security situation in the state had improved, but hinted that the recent attacks in Srinagar and outskirts of Jammu city were proving to be a spanner in moves to reduce the strength of security forces.

“But see we had some information even today also, the recent incidents of attack on the hotel and the wine bar…these are sundry incidents but still we have to be very careful, as for us it is a case of once bitter twice shy,” he said.

When asked whether there was anything wrong in the partial withdrawal of AFSPA in light of the fact that countries like the UK, Germany and Japan had revised their travel advisory for their nationals to travel to the state, Shinde said “there is nothing wrong in doing this.”

He said that the centre was working for development in the state, and the recent initiative of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi of inviting big industrialists will definitely yield results.

“I think this is the good sign that Rahul ji has done for the youngsters (of the Kashmir valley). And certainly they will consider to have many industries over there,” he said, adding that it could not be done immediately but may take some time as industrialists had to consider the project, execution of plan and finally the business outcome.

“On behalf of the home ministry, there are some schemes to provide some benefits to the industrialists who want to set up business in the state,” he said.

At the invitation of Gandhi, Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Deepak Parekh and Ravi Bajaj had recently interacted with students of Kashmir university in October this year and assured help to the youth of Kashmir.

About his recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Shinde said that the situation was improving.

“I went there to Lal Chowk and did some marketing along with the chief minister in a private car.

“I got down there to purchase some dress material for my daughter, who is an MLA (in Maharashtra) and then I and the chief minister went to a shopping-mall and had ice cream in the open area.”

Shinde, who is the first home minister to have visited the Chrar-e-Sharief shrine located 28km from Srinagar in central district of Budgam, recalled the enthusiasm of the people during his visit and their request for addressing them from a make-shift stage.

“People want their grievances to be redressed, and a better future,” he said, adding that this was being looked after by the state government.

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