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Omar meets Chidambaram to discuss Kashmir situation

New Delhi, July 17 (Calcutta Tube) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Saturday met Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram here to discuss the volatile situation in the troubled state and the ‘way forward’ to bring peace.

The brief but crucial meeting took place at Chidambaram’s residence soon after Abdullah flew into the capital Saturday morning.

‘We discussed the latest situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was to discuss the recent developments in the state particularly on the law and order front,’ Abdullah told reporters after the nearly half-an-hour meeting.

The chief minister said he had an extensive discussion with the home minister on ‘our assessment of the situation in the state now, where we are today and the way forward’.

Abdullah has come under a sharp criticism from opposition parties in the state for failing to manage crisis triggered by a cycle of violence since June 11 during which 14 civilians were killed in police firing on stone pelting mobs in the Kashmir Valley.

He said the state police and paramilitary troopers needed to be equipped better with ‘non-lethal weapons’ to control unarmed stone-pelters.

‘We discussed the requirements in terms of non-lethal equipments for the state police force and paramilitary forces to control large crowds. However, the primary aim (of the meeting) was to discuss our plan of action for the days and weeks to come to deal with the present situation,’ he said.

This was his first face-to-face meeting with Chidambaram since the crisis erupted in the Valley following the killing of 17-year-old student Tufail Mattoo June 11.

Asked about the deployment of the army in the state to contain the crisis, Abdullah said: ‘The army is a part of the state counter-insurgency grid and also a part of necessary deployment along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border. There is no other role for the army in Kashmir.’

About the opposition criticism for his alleged failure, Abdullah said ‘regardless of what the opposition says, it is the state government and its various wings that assesses the situation in the state and then takes crucial decisions’ and that the situation had improved since last Tuesday after the army was deployed.

‘Our immediate aim was to put an end to the large protests and end the cycle of deaths while protesting and further protests emerging out of that. Fortunately, we have been able to control the situation. There have been no casualties in the last week and even though people are coming out on the roads, the size and intensity of the protests have decreased.’

Abdullah is also likely to meet Defence Minister A.K. Antony later in the day.

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