Srinagar, Aug. 9: Talks between an all-party central team and leaders of the Jammu agitation failed today with the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti sticking to its demand for land allotment to the shrine board.
The Jammu leaders, however, claimed the first signs of victory by forcing out of the talks the four Kashmir politicians in the 17-member central team: Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mehbooba Mufti and Saifuddin Soz.
Minutes after the 90-minute meeting ended, the Samiti announced that its 19-day-old agitation would continue and extended it till August 14, while saying it was ready to take part in another round of talks.
We will continue the agitation since the talks were inconclusive. But we will meet again, said Samiti convener Leela Karan Sharma, leader of the 24-strong Jammu team that had members from various sections of local society but no Muslims.
We stuck to our demands, including return of the land (in the Kashmir Valleys Baltal forests) to the shrine board and recall of the governor (N.N. Vohra), Sharma said.
His (Union home minister Shivraj Patils) line was the same: to maintain peace. The ball is now in their court; they have to decide when they will call another meeting.
Patil, the leader of the all-party team, said the Centre favoured a solution that was acceptable to both Kashmir and Jammu.
He said: We hope the groups in Jammu will stop being adamant and help us find a solution. We will remove the army as soon as peace is restored.
The talks began late because the Samiti refused to participate unless the four Kashmir leaders were excluded. Having succeeded in keeping them out, Sharma crowed that the meeting was a success.
It is the first sign of our victory forcing these leaders to quit the delegation, he said.
Officials said that though Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba and Congress minister Soz were ready to pull out, the National Conferences Farooq refused to bend at first, creating a deadlock of sorts for sometime.
Mehbooba and the other leaders did not join the meeting after lunch and quietly left the venue. She said: If my stepping out will solve any issue, I have no objection. But there can be no solution unless the Kashmiri leadership is brought on board too.
Earlier, Peoples Revolutionary Movement leader Rajinder Jamwal had dramatically burst into a news briefing by Congress leader and former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma. He shouted he had boycotted the talks in protest against the presence of Mehbooba, Farooq, Soz and Congress leader Azad.
We cant remain silent against leaders who have fuelled this crisis. They are anti-national and pro-Pakistan, Jamwal said.
The PDP today said: The anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim tirade launched by the Samiti under the garb of land agitation manifests the larger design of the Sangh parivar to divide the state on regional and religious lines.
The talks took place amid curfew in various Jammu districts. Protesters defied curfew orders and held rallies at various places in Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur. Police arrested around four dozen people.