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CM urges separatists to accept talks offer.

In an impassioned plea to the separatist leadership of Kashmir, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti implored them to seize the “golden opportunity” and accept New Delhi’s offer of dialogue to help put an end to the bloodshed in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Chief Minister, who was speaking to the media in Srinagar on Monday when she unveiled a new bridge in the city, said that there was only one way to resolve the Kashmir issue and that was through a process of dialogue. She said its fate could never be decided in a war.

She told the gathered reporters that political efforts were underway to kick-start a political process on Kashmir whose fate would depend on the situation in Kashmir. “It becomes responsibility of everybody, mainstream parties who are already part of this process, and separatists to help bring peace in the state. They (separatists) should think if they want an end to the bloodshed,” said Mehbooba.

She said the union home minister Rajnath Singh has offered to talk to everybody. “This is a golden opportunity and we should take advantage of it. Such an opportunity doesn’t come time and again,” said Mehbooba. The Chief Minister said it does not happen very often that an offer like this comes from a very powerful Prime Minister and anti-militancy operations are put to a halt.

She said it was 18 years ago that a ceasefire was announced in J&K when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. That time, Mehbooba said, talks were held at the level of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

“The process seems to have been repeated again. We should take advantage of it,” she said. Last month Singh said during a TV show in New Delhi that the government of India was ready to hold a dialogue with separatists.

During his two day visit to J&K last week, he reiterated the government of India’s “conviction” for resolving Kashmir and said the government was willing to hold talks with everyone. However, the separatists have asked New Delhi to first clear “ambiguity” over the dialogue offer and “speak in one language” before they could respond.

On Friday, chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the leadership was not in a hurry and would respond only after threadbare deliberations over the latest development. “The government can’t force people (separatists) for joining talks but we hope people they will take advantage of this offer,” said Mehbooba. “For lasting peace here and to take J&K out of bloodshed, all should come forward.”

On June 4, the Chief Minister had appealed to separatists to take up New Delhi’s offer of talks to save the state from further bloodshed, saying it was a “rare opportunity”. “Come forward and talk. If we don’t seize this opportunity today, then nobody will plead our case tomorrow,” Mehbooba had told a party convention here.

She said J&K was witnessing a high level of violence and bloodshed for the past three decades and the development process has been badly hit despite continuous efforts by the government to take the state on a path of progress.

To a question about the possibility of an extension in the ceasefire beyond Ramdhan, Mehbooba said the Prime Minister and the home minister would review the situation and take a decision.

“But I am hopeful they will take an appropriate decision on it. People have heaved a sigh of relief due to suspension of operations,” she said.

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