The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No cause for concern: Mufti

Srinagar, Nov. 13: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today said the Centre had no reason to feel concerned about the government’s policy to release separatist leaders.

“I do not see any reason for the Government of India to feel any concern on this issue,” the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister told newsmen. “There could be political compulsions of criticising the decision in view of the Gujarat elections to put our coalition partner in the wrong.”

He added that the “Centre was aware of the ground realities in the state and our decision”. “Even the Prime Minister took initiatives to break the ice by announcing unilateral ceasefire during Ramazan that, despite not being reciprocated, continued for four months. It was a good step and no less a person than the Union home secretary came here to hold talks with the Hizb-ul Mujahideen.”

“The Centre also engaged K.C. Pant as an interlocutor to initiate unconditional talks on Kashmir. If these steps were correct, how can anyone find fault with our decision now'” Mufti asked.

He said the release of political detainees “would help in normalising the situation in the state”. “India is a great democracy and democracy is basically a battle of ideas. Let the released persons express their views and we will fight them politically.”

“My government is committed to giving a healing touch to the situation and restoring peace with dignity. The release of the separatists was a step in this direction. Such decisions are being taken carefully and the government is confident that these will have a good effect on the situation.” the chief minister said.

“The recent elections have given the state a great opening and I would not like to waste it,” Mufti said. “My government wants to put the gun behind as bullets will not solve any problem. The ballot had answered the bullets and we are determined to proceed further and bring peace and normalcy in the state,” he added.

Mufti said this was not the “first time that political prisoners were being released. Earlier also, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammad Yasin Malik and the late Abdul Gani Lone were released by the state and the Central governments”.

Mufti said the state government was “very responsible and had taken this decision after due consideration”. “The release of political prisoners was part of the common minimum programme of the coalition government that has public mandate. Some of the detainees were released by courts after being in jail for about 12 years. I don’t want to interfere in the matters of the judiciary.”

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