The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mine fails to faze Sonia

Baramulla, June 1: Hours after a landmine was found near the venue of her rally in this border town, Sonia Gandhi today scaled a barricade to reach out to the people.

With one foot on the barrier, built for the PDP-Congress joint public meeting here, Sonia reached over to receive petitions from the people containing their grievances.

Earlier in the day, security forces had detected a landmine on the Srinagar-Baramulla national highway 500 metres from her rally venue, official sources said.

The first national leader in recent times to address a meeting in the border town, situated a few kilometres from the Line of Control, Sonia appeared with chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the Police Grounds here this afternoon. Both made a common commitment to end the cycle of violence and work for the return of peace.

Sonia iterated the Congress’ support to the Prime Minister’s latest peace initiative and promised that the eight-month-old coalition government would spare no effort to fulfil its common resolve of leading Kashmir towards peace and development.

She hoped that the Centre’s peace initiative would help the cause of revival of normality in the state and urged the Centre to talk to all sections of the Kashmiri people.

Earlier at the rally, Mufti appealed to Sonia to wholly support the Centre’s peace overtures to Pakistan. He also availed the opportunity to get Sonia’s endorsement for his proposal to work for open borders between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Sonia said their common goal could be achieved only through a firm commitment to the principles of secularism and democracy. Apart from being a veiled attack on the BJP, her emphasis on secularism was significant for another reason.

A large number of minority Kashmiri Pundits and Sikhs from Baramulla and the nearby town of Sopore had fled their homes a decade ago in the face of terror strikes. Without naming the Pundit community, she said: “I share the woes of those who had to leave their homes because of terrorism, particularly from Baramulla and Sopore.”

In the same vein, Sonia also congratulated the Kashmiri Muslims for expressing sympathy with the Pundit victims and their families of the recent Nadimarg massacre.

According to Mufti, divided families between the two Kashmirs was a human problem. It should be seen accordingly, he said.

If there could be bus service between Delhi and Lahore, why not have freer movement of people between the Kashmirs, he asked. He also cited the example of the two Koreas to emphasise his point. Free movement of people between the two Kashmirs would go a long way in helping change the mindset of the Pakistani people about the Valley, he said.

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