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Shrine protest group says won't talk if PDP, NC, Congress in team

Shrine protest group says won't talk if PDP, NC, Congress in team

Author: Suman K Jha
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: August 9, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/346647.html

The Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti (SASS), the umbrella group leading the protests in Jammu against the decision to revoke the order transferring land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, has decided to boycott the 18-member all-party delegation, headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, visiting Jammu tomorrow.

Its reason: the inclusion of National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, PDP's Mehbooba Mufti and Congress's Saifuddin Soz in the team.

"They are part of the problem. And now they want to work out a solution for us. This is just not acceptable," SASS convener Leela Karan Sharma told The Indian Express.

The 18-member all-party delegation also includes five Union Ministers besides Patil (Saifuddin Soz, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, A Raja, Prithviraj Chavan and Sriprakash Jaiswal) and leaders from other parties like Arun Jaitley (BJP), Amar Singh (SP), Sitaram Yechury (CPM) and Mohsina Kidwai (Congress).

The samiti had earlier agreed to meet the delegation. "We had even agreed on the time and the venue for the meeting. The Home Commissioner had proposed the Governor's House; we insisted on the Government Guest House and they agreed. We were to meet at 10 am, but after we came to know about the constitution of the team, we decided not to meet them," said Sharma.

While Sharma denied this, sources confirmed that the samiti took the decision to boycott the team after talking to top RSS leaders like Indresh.

Asked if he would still be going now that that the samiti has decided to boycott the delegation, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: "We'll take a call in the morning." He added that his party stood by "what they have said so far".

On the samiti's boycott call: Farooq Abdullah said, "Why should we go out of the delegation? Who are they to dictate terms to us. We are a part of this state."

Mehbooba, however, had a different take: "If they are willing to talk without us, I have no problems to opt out of the delegation."

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, however, said that the samiti, by its boycott call, was doing no service to India: "The National Conference and the PDP, too, are stakeholders in the peace process in the state. By their act of boycotting the all-party delegation, that has been constituted at the initiative of the Prime Minister, the samiti is validating the idea of religious polarization, thus assaulting the very idea of India. This is a result of the ongoing RSS project there," he said.

Asked if the samiti would meet the all-party team if the three said members were to opt out, Leela Karan Sharma said: "We would then meet them, but we'll have to re-jig the time." The SASS has, in the meantime, announced extension of its agitation till August 14.

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