PM’s closing remarks at 2nd Jammu & Kashmir Round Table at Srinagar
At the outset, let me thank all of you who have participated in the deliberations over the last two days and have made this conference lively, interesting and certainly very productive. We began this process three months ago in February in New Delhi and I had mentioned then that this is only the beginning of a process and not a one off event. The purpose, as I had said earlier, was to look at evolving a consensus among different groups and sections of society on issues related to Jammu & Kashmir.
I believe, and I am sure that all of you will agree, that we have had fruitful and engaging discussions over these two days. A wide diversity of views have been expressed and I believe, that is the strength of this Round Table process which has now become a forum to tap into a wide range of opinion that exists among political parties, civil society organizations and others.
As I have heard all of you over the last two days, the recurring theme that has been emerging from speaker after speaker is that, while the Round Table process has its advantages and utility, we need to have a mechanism which can give concrete shape to the ideas expressed here, a mechanism which can provide opportunities for meeting more frequently in smaller groups, a mechanism which can focus on the specific issues, one at a time, and find a common ground and forge a consensus in this diversity. We have all had the chance to express our views – both in Delhi and in Srinagar – and I believe that the time is now ripe to agree on the concrete mechanism for taking this process forward so that we can address issues which concern the people of this beautiful state.
Before proceeding to the details of a mechanism which can carry forward the process, I would like to dwell on some of the more immediate issues which have been raised in the Conference.
I do realize that the people of the state are put to a certain degree of inconvenience because of the prevailing security situation. But it must be understood that this scenario is the result of the ongoing actions of certain elements who disturb the peace in the state. I have instructed the security forces to be more mindful of human rights and be sensitive to the liberties and self respect of ordinary people. At the same time, it is our collective responsibility to create an atmosphere where the people of the state can be free from the fear of oppression and terrorist activities and can go about their normal lives like their fellow countrymen. If this requires strengthening the state police – both in numbers and materially – the central government would be willing to support that.
Another issue of immediate concern is the relief that we can immediately provide to those affected by terrorist activities and the state response to that. I have spoken in the past of the need to overcome animosities and moving forward in restoring normalcy in the state. In the context of today’s Round Table and the voices we have heard, it is important that in our effort at nation building, we win back as our own the destitute families of those terrorists who have been killed in police action. We have initiated a number of schemes for rehabilitation of orphans of those who were victims of terrorism. Such schemes must be extended to all orphans who will need help in building for themselves a life free from violence and perceived revenge, as upright citizens of this great state and of India. A number of national level NGOs have been in this field since 1994, of which the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation with its Project Interact was the first. Since then a number of local organizations have joined in this endeavour through orphanages and schools. I assure you that this is an area where we can all work together, in ensuring that we provide succor and relief to all destitute widows and orphans of anyone killed in violence in the state. This will be our surest and immediate contribution to the peace and prosperity that we all crave. I will ask the Home Ministry and the State Government to work out a credible mechanism of support for these families.
Another issue of concern that has been raised by many speakers is the problem of detention under various acts. I am aware of the fact that in the atmosphere that pervaded the state in the first phase of violence that engulfed Kashmir, many had faced arrest. A Screening Committee had been set up under Governor’s Rule to review all cases, thus leading to the release of a number of young men found to be innocent, who were able to return to a useful life. At my instance, the Home Ministry has examined all cases of detention and in two rounds, released detenus against whom there are no serious cases. It has been mentioned here that a number of young men continue to languish in prison although the enormity of their offences were not of so heinous a nature. I will request the Home Ministry to periodically review on a quarterly basis all such cases of detention and release those that can be released. Let this now be not linked to meetings and conferences but an ongoing process. My own office will monitor this every quarter.
The issue of economic development of the state, creation of job opportunities and effective utilization of funds has been a recurring theme. In addition to establishing a mechanism – which I will elaborate later – I assure everyone that no efforts will be spared for the economic empowerment of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Whatever projects – such as the Nimmo-Bazgo and Chutuk – are pending government approval, will be expedited.
The problem of displacement of people is a live one. I do realize that lives have been disrupted, livelihoods have been lost and homes uprooted as a result of this. In addition to the efforts at restoring normalcy in state to facilitate their return, I request the state government to expedite the issue of identity cards to migrant families in a time-bound manner in the next 6 months.
In my opening remarks, I mentioned that there are two dimensions to the problems of Jammu & Kashmir – one being the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar and the other being the relationship between Delhi and Islamabad. I have said repeatedly to President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan that we are sincerely committed to peace and development in this region. Our government is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. There is also realization that terrorism is an enemy of civilized societies.
In my speech while launching the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service, I had said that the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan will open up enormous opportunities for an accelerated rate of economic growth. We must encourage people-to-people contacts between both sides. It is through such contacts that we can explore a vision for a cooperative common future for our two nations – a future where peace prevails, where relations are friendly, where our citizens rejoice in the well-being of the other country.
The vision that guides us is that the destinies of our peoples are interlinked. That our two countries must therefore devise effective cooperative strategies to give concrete shape and meaning to this shared vision. We are sincerely committed to the prosperity, unity, development and well-being of Pakistan. We want all the people of South Asia to live a life of dignity and self-respect. When our neighbours live in peace, we live in peace.
The peace process with Pakistan, as discussions at the Round Table Conference have revealed, has generated high expectations. I am glad that this process has received demonstrable public support. We are awaiting Pakistan’s response on some concrete suggestions which we have made.
In order to move forward, we need to move ahead step by step. We must have the courage to see each other as supporting the other for the realization of a better tomorrow for all the people of India and Pakistan. I have stated earlier and will repeat once again, that I have a vision that the peace making process must ultimately culminate in our two countries entering into a Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship to give meaning and substance to our quest for shared goals.
I now come to the issue of establishing credible mechanisms for carrying this dialogue forward. Based on the various suggestions made, I would, therefore like to propose that we set up Working Groups comprising members from amongst those present or those nominated by parties and groups who could look more closely at the broad issues and problems. I am sure all of you would agree that this would be the best way to move forward and ensure that the views of different segments are incorporated into the process. My suggestion is for the creation of five Working Groups:
Group I: Confidence-building measures across segments of society in the State. The Group will evolve:
- Measures to improve the condition of people affected by militancy
- Schemes to rehabilitate all orphans and widows affected by militancy
- Issues relating to the relaxation of conditions for persons who have foresworn militancy.
- An effective rehabilitation policy, including employment, for Kashmiri Pandit migrants
- An approach considering issues relating to return of Kashmiri youth from areas controlled by Pakistan
- Measures to protect and preserve the unique cultural and religious heritage of the State.
Group II : Strengthening relations across the Line of Control : To recommend measures to :
- Simplify procedures to facilitate travel across the Line of Control
- increase goods traffic
- expand people-to-people contact, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism
- open up new routes such as Kargil-Skardu etc
Group III : Economic development : To evolve a strategy that ensures :
- balanced economic development and employment generation
- balanced regional and sub-regional development within the State.
Group IV : Ensuring Good Governance: To consider effective measures to :
- Increase responsiveness, accountability and transparency of the administration.
- Strengthen local self-government.
- Effectively monitor developmental programmes
- Institute zero tolerance for human rights violations.
- Strengthen the Right to Information
- Provide adequate security to all segments of society, particularly the minority communities.
Group V : Strengthening relations between the State and the Centre: To deliberate on :
- Matters relating to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union.
- Methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the State.
This group will also deliberate on effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations. The groups may co-opt experts if they so desire. The State government will extend logistic support.
If there is general agreement regarding the Working Groups and the subjects they would cover, may I also suggest that we consider appointing suitable Convenor for each of the Working Groups. The choice of Convenor could be yours or if you like I could request the Chief Minister to finalise the choice. The composition of the Working Groups could be decided in consultation with all of you though this may take some time.
My earnest appeal to you is to see this opportunity for you as people's representative to make a material contribution to the problems that we have been discussing for many decades now and arrive at an understanding and a consensus on what needs to be done. I am not minimizing the difficulties that lie ahead but I think it would be a good beginning and a substantive contribution of this Round Table Conference. Once the Working Groups have completed their task we could discuss their recommendations in an another Round Table Conference.