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Centre doesn’t want army in Kashmir for long: HM
Shinde open to meeting separatists
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NEW DELHI, Nov 20 (Agencies): The Centre does not want to keep the military in Kashmir "for long" but a decision on removing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will be taken only after some time, says home minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

He also wants to meet separatists in the state including the Hurriyat conference leaders "to understand what they really want".

"Certainly security should be reduced, but this is not the proper time. We will still have to watch for some time," Shinde said.

The minister, who visited Jammu and Kashmir last month after taking over the Home portfolio in July, was asked about reducing the footprints of the security forces.

He said the security situation in the state has improved hinted the recent attacks in Srinagar and outskirts of Jammu city were proving to be a spanner in moves to reduce the strength of security forces.

"But see we had some information even today also, the recent incidents of attack on the hotel and the wine bar...these are sundry incidents but still we have to be very careful as for us its a case of once bitter twice shy," he said.

When asked whether there was anything wrong in the partial withdrawal of AFSPA in light of the fact that countries like the UK, Germany and Japan had revised their travel advisory for their nationals to travel to the state, Shinde said "there is nothing wrong in doing this."

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has flagged the issue of partial withdrawal of AFSPA from parts of the state which include Srinagar and parts of Budgam in Kashmir region and Jammu and Samba districts in Jammu region.

On the dialogue process, Shinde expressed his willingness to meet separatists of the state including Hurriyat Conference saying "what's the harm in that. They also live in India and some of them were MLAs also. I want to understand what they really want."

Syed Ali Shah Geelani was an MLA in 1987 while others were associated with political outfit--Muslim United Front -- which had contested the elections in the same year.

Shinde said the separatists should come forward and work together for betterment of younger generation, their education, welfare and better future.

He said the Centre was working for development in the state and the recent initiative of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi of inviting big industrialists will definitely yield results.

"I think this is the good sign that Rahul ji has done for the youngsters (of the Kashmir valley). And certainly they will consider to have many industries over there," he said and added it cannot be done immediately but may take some time as the industrialists have to consider the project, execution of plan and finally the business outcome.

On behalf of home ministry, there were some schemes to provide some benefits to the industrialists who want to set up business in the state, Shinde said.

At the invitation of Gandhi, Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Deepak Parekh and Ravi Bajaj had recently interacted with students of Kashmir university in October this year and assured help to the youth of Kashmir.

About his recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Shinde said the situation was improving. "I went there to Lal Chowk and did some marketing along with the chief minister in a private car.

"I got down there to purchase some dress material for my daughter, who is an MLA (in Maharashtra) and then I and the chief minister went to a shopping-mall and had ice cream in the open area."

Shinde, who is the first home minister to have visited the Chrar-e-Sharief shrine located 28km from Srinagar in central district of Budgam, recalled the enthusiasm of the people during his visit and their request for addressing them from a make-shift stage.

"People want redressal of their grievances and a better future," he said and added that this was being looked after by the state government.

The shrine was gutted by terrorists led by Mast Gul in 1995 after which the state and the Central government rebuild it along with the 700 houses that were damaged in days of encounter between the militants and security forces.
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News Updated at : Wednesday, November 21, 2012
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