Traders refuse to meet Rajnath in relatively calm Kashmir (Evening Lead)

Srinagar, July 23 (IANS) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday met groups of Kashmiris, including civil society members and top officials, seeking their suggestions on peace in the wake of the fresh unrest that has left dozens of people dead in the Kashmir Valley.

However, top trade bodies in the valley refused to meet the Home Minister who will be here until Sunday afternoon.

Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), one of the largest trade bodies in the valley, said the meeting would be futile because if the Government of India is keen to resolve the Kashmir dispute, it should instead hold talks with Pakistan and political representatives of the state.

“We are traders, what would India achieve by talking to us,” KTMF president Yasin Khan said in a statement.

“Kashmir is a dispute accepted by the world. Our real representatives are pro-freedom leaders. India should hold dialogue with Pakistan and our leaders if it is sincere in resolving the Kashmir dispute,” Khan said.

Other business lobbies including Kashmir Economic Alliance and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry also refused to be part of the dialogue in protest against the deaths of some 45 Kashmiris and injuries to thousands in clashes with security forces following the July 8 killing of Hizbul militant commander Burhan Wani.

Rajnath Singh, according to official sources, however, met some delegations including civil society members and leaders of some mainstream political parties. He also met top civil and security officials.

Details of his meetings were not released immediately.

But sources told IANS that the Home Minister sought suggestions from the people over how to bring normalcy in Kashmir.

The Minister has noted their suggestions, which included reaching out to the people of Kashmir with a “political package”, and assurances that no demographic change is being engineered either by the state or central government in India’s only Muslim-dominated state.

As the Home Minister spent his day at the highly-guarded Nehru Guest House near Chashmashahi in Srinagar on the picturesque Zabarwan Hills, the Kashmir Valley was largely calm barring sporadic incidents of stone-throwing.

According to a police spokesperson, security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters in Srinagar after people took to the streets, shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.

Curfew and a separatist shutdown continued in the valley but restrictions were eased in some parts of four north Kashmir districts.

–IANS

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