New Delhi: An all-party meeting called at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to find a way forward to end the cycle of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, ended without a consensus on the army's role.
After the meeting, that went on for over five hours, it was decided that Home Minister P Chidambaram will lead an all-party delegation to Kashmir to gather all shades of opinion from the Valley. No decision was reached on the fate of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
"Leaders of various political parties who attended today's meeting... agreed that the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations," according to a statement released at the end of the meeting.
"The Government will take into account the deliberations at today's meeting while considering measures and initiatives to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The feedback received from the all-party delegation would form an important input into the Government's evolving response on various issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir", it said.
Earlier, Singh said, "The only path of peace in Jammu and Kashmir is through dialogue. I am distressed to see young men protesting on streets in Kashmir. We are ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence."
Singh added that some of the violence was being orchestrated by certain groups.
The Prime Minister also expressed sadness over the loss of lives and injuries suffered by the people, the police and security personnel besides "huge disruption" in the daily lives of the common man and the financial losses suffered by the people of the state.
But Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, already under fire for his handling of the crisis in the Valley, chose to skip the meeting despite being in Delhi. Omar's absence from the crucial meeting has given the Opposition more ammunition to target him.
Jammu and Kashmir's main opposition People's Democratic Party's Mehbooba Mufti said her party has appealed that the Kashmir problem be looked on with a humane approach.
She also demanded that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be removed along with a phased withdrawal of the army.
Kashmir's former Chief Minister and father of Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah said his son's efforts to defuse the tension in the state were praised by the government.