New Delhi: Top Congress leaders on Saturday said the initiatives taken in Kashmir during the United Progressive Alliance’s 10-year rule have been reversed, as they discussed the prevailing situation in the valley at a key meeting chaired by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
The party leadership also feels that there is a sense of alienation at all levels in the state that requires the urgent attention of the government. The views were expressed by members of the Congress policy planning group constituted by party chief Sonia Gandhi, at its first meeting held at the residence of Singh who chairs the group.
Barring former home minister P. Chidambaram, eight of the nine members of the key strategy group attended the meeting and expressed their views frankly. The meeting assumes significance in view of the prolonged unrest in the Kashmir valley, since the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani in an encounter last July.
Persons familiar with the matter said all the members were concerned over the “reversal” of the key initiatives and work done during the 10 years of the Congress-led UPA government when they claimed, peace had returned to the state and its people were assimilating across the country.
Senior member of the committee Ambika Soni said all the members expressed their views “freely and frankly” over the situation in Kashmir. “The leaders expressed deep concern over the situation in the valley,” she said after the meeting.
All the leaders said that the various initiatives taken by the UPA government and Congress leadership have been “reversed” and washed away and the situation in the state has turned “serious”. Former J&K chief minister and senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also expressed serious concern over the prevailing situation in the state and the increased sense of alienation there.
“The leaders expressed their views openly and expressed serious concern over the present situation in Kashmir which is disturbing. The initiatives and work done during the 10 years of UPA have been reversed. There is a sense of alienation at all levels,” J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmed Mir told PTI.
Asked whether the issue of funding of separatists from across the border was also discussed, he denied so. However, persons familiar with the matter said all issues and recent incidents were discussed during the meeting, including the killing of 22-year-old army officer Lt Ummer Fayaz by terrorists in the valley when he was on leave to attend a family wedding.
People familiar with the matter said there will be another meeting of the group soon that will keenly watch the developments and action by the state and central governments. The Congress has been critical of the Modi government and the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir over the handling of the situation in the state, which it said is “deteriorating” with each passing day.
Concerned over the “disturbed” situation in the valley, Congress president Gandhi had on 19 April formulated a policy-planning group for Jammu and Kashmir to take forward the peace initiative in the state.
Others who attended Saturday’s meet include Congress Working Committee member Karan Singh, CLP leader in the state Rigzin Zora, former MP Tariq Hameed Karra and party vice president Shyam Lal Sharma. Persons familiar with the matter said the group will study and assess the ground situation and take initiatives for restoring normalcy to the volatile state.