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All-party delegation to visit Kashmir

By The Assam Tribune

New Delhi, Sept 15 (IANS): An all-party delegation will visit the troubled Kashmir Valley to "meet all sections of people and gather all shades of opinions", Home Minister P Chidambaram said today after a five-hour meeting of leaders from various political parties.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by top leaders of various parties, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani and Nitin Gadkari, decided to have a first-hand impression of the state before deciding on any major measure to restore normalcy.

The meeting also took no decision on the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

"The leaders of various political parties who attended today's meeting made valuable suggestions to resolve the vexed issue that faces us in Jammu and Kashmir," Chidambaram said in his concluding remarks at the meeting, called to discuss measures to defuse the volatile situation in the valley, where 88 people, mainly teenagers and youth, have died in violent protests since June 11.

"The meeting resolved to send an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders have agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of people and gather all shades of opinions," he said.

Chidambaram said the visit will be facilitated by the home ministry and state government.

"The feedback received from the all-party delegation will form an important input to the government evolving response to various issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir," the Home Minister said. "They (political parties) agreed that the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue and discourse and peaceful negotiations," he added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed his distress at "young men and women - even children" protesting on the streets of Kashmir and stressed that the route to lasting peace in the valley was through dialogue and discussion.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also appealed to all political parties to take a "suitable decision" to break the "vicious cycle of violence and suffering" in Jammu and Kashmir.

She also said the Kashmiri youth need to be given hope. "But we also must ask ourselves why there is so much anger. Why there is so much pain, in particular among the youth," she said in her address.

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