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Peace process was the real target: Political parties

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi & PTI
Last updated on: July 22, 2003 20:34 IST
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On Monday night, and later on Tuesday morning, militants sent two deadly reminders of their ominous presence - two explosions near Katra and a suicide attack on an army camp - in Jammu and Kashmir.

Six Vaishno Devi pilgrims were killed in Monday night's attack at Banganga (near Katra) and seven jawans in Tuesday morning's attack on an army camp at Tanda, 40km from Jammu.

Repulsed by the gruesome act, all political parties condemned the attacks saying the intention clearly was to derail the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and efforts to normalise relations between India and Pakistan.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed visited Katra on Tuesday morning.

"The people of J&K will face these challenges," he said adding army and police officials were told to take every possible step to ensure safety and security of the pilgrims.

Minister of State for Home Swami Chinmayanand, who also visited Katra, echoed Sayeed's sentiments.

"It is still not known who is behind these attacks, but one thing is clear - militants are trying to derail the peace process between India and Pakistan and disrupt normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Both the chief minister and Swami Chinmayanand, accompanied by senior officials, took stock of the situation at Banganga, the scene of Monday night's attack.

Sayeed interacted with members of the Vaishnodevi Shrine Board and top police and district officials.

Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma also flew to Katra.

Security forces searched the hills surrounding Banganga and detained some people for questioning.

"Hizbul Mujahideen is responsible for the explosions at Banganga," Udhampur police chief Vijay Singh Samyal told PTI.

Most of militancy-related incidents near Katra were the handiwork of the outfit, he said.

In Delhi, Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani was joined by opposition members, notably Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and Communist Party of India-Marxist's Somnath Chatterjee, in condemning the attack, in the Lok Sabha.

Dispensing with Question Hour, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday took up discussion on the two terrorist attacks near Jammu in which a total of 13 persons were killed and several injured.

Speaker Lok Sabha Manohar Joshi appealed to all members not to politicise the issue.

Samajwadi Party leader and former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav said the entire opposition was with the government in its fight against terrorism.

"We do not seek to make any political gain out of the incident. We condemn the incident and ask the government to take appropriate steps to protect the people of the state. When terrorists attacked pilgrims in Pahalgam a few years back, we had demanded that the government attack terrorists camps without any delay," he said.

The CPI-M's Somnath Chatterjee said that the House should send a unanimous message to those seeking to derail the peace process that we are united in the fight against terrorism.

"Sir, I went to Kashmir in June as a member of the standing committee of the House and I was pleased to see normalcy return to the state. Not a single room was available in the hotels or shikara's (house boats)."

"We visited Gulmarg, a tourist spot, and found that tourists had begun to return to the state after a series of visits by Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee, Sonia Gandhi and 15 chief ministers of Congress-ruled states."

"The terrorist attack on the pilgrims is an attempt to derail the peace process set in motion by Prime Minister Vajpayee. This is an act against humanity and we express our deep anguish on the incident."

"I am told that the government has taken adequate to ensure safety of Amarnath-bound pilgrims. But there should be no laxity in providing security to the pilgrims going to Vaishno Devi too," he added.

National Conference president Omar Abdullah told that he had warned the J&K government about impending terrorist attacks but to no avail.

"The attacks have revealed gaping holes in our security system. The lull in terrorist violence should not be mistaken for a yearning for peace," he said.

He was critical of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for stopping the police from frisking people.

"This would allow terrorists to roam around freely. The operation in the Hill Kaka area has forced militants to shift to other areas. This is evident by the terrorist strikes in the Jammu region," he said.

Ramesh Manvati, national general secretary of Panun Kashmir (an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits), was also critical of the decision to stop the police from frisking.

He said it was the victims of terrorist violence and not terrorists who needed a healing touch and demanded security agencies launch fresh operations against militants in the state.

Former chief justice of India and chairman of the National Human Rights Commission A S Anand has also condemned the attacks.

Speaking to mediapersons after watching an exhibition on Kashmir titled 'Terror Unleashed' at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, Anand said, "Terror is an assault on civilization and rape of humanity."

He said that NHRC was seized of the matter concerning the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, especially those living in migrant camps.

More reports from Jammu and Kashmir

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi & PTI