Congress, trade bodies refuse to meet Rajnath

Congress, trade bodies refuse to meet Rajnath

Kashmir unrest: Restrictions continue as situation remains tense

Congress, trade bodies refuse to meet Rajnath

In a setback to the government's efforts to bring back peace in Kashmir, opposition Congress and prominent trade bodies on Saturday refused to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Singh, who arrived here on a two-day visit to hold dialogues with cross section of the society amid unrest and civilian killings, however, held a series of closed-door meetings with local leaders, senior civil and police officers in Srinagar in an attempt to end the two-week long unrest which claimed at least 49 lives

Some local representatives associated with the tourism sector and some unidentified religious leaders who met Singh had hid their faces as they entered the Nehru Guest House, here. Media was not allowed to cover the meetings.

Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation chief Muhammad Yasin Khan told reporters that first killings should stop and then only “we will meet the home minister”.
Refusing to interact with the Home Minister, Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), a local traders’ body, in a strongly worded statement, called the government’s approach high-handed and “arrogant”. Chamber of Commerce and various hotel associations and transport bodies also boycotted the meeting.

The state Congress chief G A Mir, while deciding not to meet Rajnath, charged that the central government had “failed to stop killings, besides having failed to address the concerns of the people”.

The state Congress said it was expected that the central government would send an all-party delegation to assess the situation. “But that too has not happened, which is indicative of the Centre’s lack of interest in ending the current unrest,” he added.

However, the main opposition National Conference (NC), which had earlier boycotted the All Party Meeting called by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, has decided to meet the home minister.

Interestingly, the Congress had attended Mehbooba’s All Party Meet.

Rajnath is scheduled to meet Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and other top officers of the police, security forces and intelligence agencies, before his return to Delhi on Sunday. He is also scheduled to meet civil society groups and representatives of the local media.

Sources said the home minister has directed the local authorities to lift curfew in the areas which were relatively calm. He is also reported to have favoured the restoration of mobile phone services in the Valley.

Meanwhile, the situation continues to remain tense though no incident of violence was reported on Saturday. Protests and stone-pelting incidents were reported from several areas of Srinagar and south Kashmir.

The youths burnt tyres on the streets and clashed with forces who responded by firing teargas shells.

At Chadoora in Budgam district of central Kashmir, scores of protesters attacked a police station after which forces resorted to massive tear-gas shelling and aerial firing.