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CM for talks to read pulse on autonomy

Srinagar, Nov. 3: Fresh from coronation under fire, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today said a dialogue to ascertain the views of the people would have to precede any decision on autonomy.

“It is futile to first decide about the end and then start a dialogue,” Mufti said at his first news conference after taking over the reins of the state. “Dialogue is important and the result has to come out of it and not before its initiation,” he said.

The chief minister said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has taken many steps in this regard and stressed the need to first “extinguish the fire that has brought about the alienation of the people”.

Mufti said the state police and his administration would have to become public-friendly. “I don’t think you need severe methods to get required information from an arrested person. There has to be a change of attitude and I am here to bring that about.”

The chief minister iterated that the anti-terrorism law would not be used in the state. “Screening of cases under this Act has already begun,” he said. Mufti, however, said a law related to public order was required even during normal times.

Emphasising the need to provide a healing touch, Mufti recalled his recent meeting with Vajpayee where he had “impressed upon Central leaders the urgency to seize the opportunity provided by the people’s overwhelming verdict in the Assembly elections”.

“I hope the Centre would walk an extra mile to consolidate the gains made by the successful completion of the poll process,” the chief minister added.

He described yesterday’s grenade attack on his Nowgam residence as “a minor incident aimed at diverting the attention of the government”.

“The general situation has improved and these incidents will not deter us.”

The state Cabinet, which met this morning with Mufti in the chair, decided that the first session of the newly-elected Assembly would be held in Jammu on November 21.

Mufti has kept the home department with him and allocated the ministries of industry, commerce and transport to his deputy and Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma.

Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, PDP vice-president and a lawyer, has been given charge of finance, law, parliamentary affairs, planning and development.

Sharma said the Cabinet would be expanded soon and his party would get proportionate representation.

Manmohan tips

Former Union finance minister Manmohan Singh will guide the new Jammu and Kashmir government in formulating a short-term economic package.

The state government will formulate a short-term economic package for the immediate relief and rehabilitation of the people of the state, Mufti said.

Manmohan, who had held extensive talks with Mufti as the emissary of Sonia Gandhi to break the coalition deadlock, will guide the government on this, the chief minister added.

The package will be sent to the Central government for approval, he said.

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