CONCERNED over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, the Central government first sent a high-level team of the Union Home Ministry to conduct a review. On June 11, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram arrived in Srinagar with another team to find out the grey areas that had to be addressed. This was his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after taking over as Home Minister for the second time.
Officials were tight-lipped over what transpired among Chidambaram, Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, but they are believed to have discussed the ground situation, which was fast slipping away to the advantage of the separatists. Chidambarams meeting with Unified Headquarters (of all security agencies) was also significant, and the message seems to have gone to all the forces to behave themselves and to put on a humane face in order to consolidate the gains of the two recent electoral exercises. Infiltration from across the border was also one area that came up for discussion. Whatever the decisions taken, the visit did send a message across about New Delhis concern for the Kashmir situation.
Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi rushed Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief chief Saifuddin Soz to Srinagar asking him to intervene and defuse the crisis, which she believed was the responsibility of her party as a major partner of the ruling coalition. Informed sources said that Sonia Gandhi was deeply perturbed over the rape and death of two women and asked Soz to see that the government took corrective measures.
A Congress spokesman in New Delhi termed the Shopian killings a shameful incident. The State government has to facilitate peace and reconciliation in the State, but in the case of Jammu and Kashmir it largely depends upon the will of the Centre to discipline the security forces, who feel immune under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Omar Abdullah may be sincere in bringing about a change, but he needs strong backing from the Centre. Chidambarams visit, in that respect, should help.Shujaat Bukhari