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- Rajnath Singh is on a four-day visit to the state, his fifth this year
"I am willing to talk to anyone. I am inviting everyone who is willing to help us in resolving problems of Kashmir," said the Home Minister in his latest outreach. Rajnath Singh is on a four-day visit to the state, his fifth this year.
"I will make 50 visits a year if necessary to ensure peace and prosperity. I will make any efforts needed, whatever the hurdles," he said, adding that the situation in the Kashmir Valley has improved as compared to last year.
"We wish to see smiles on the face of Kashmiri people," said Mr Singh, who was addressing a press conference before flying to Rajouri district in Jammu for the second leg of his visit to the state. Asked about Article 35A of the Indian Constitution being challenged in court as discriminatory - it bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir from acquiring immovable property in the state - Mr Singh said the Centre had not initiated such a process. "I want to assure that I am not talking about only Article 35A, whatever our government does, we will not do
anything against the sentiments of the people here. We will
continue to respect that," the minister said.
"This is a very important statement from the union home
minister. His assurance will go a long way towards silencing
the noises against 35-A," tweeted former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.
Mr Abdullah had met the Home Minister in Anantnag yesterday, saying he was concerned over what he called the Centre's ambiguity in defending Article 35A. He welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks in his Independence speech last month that Kashmiris need hugs, not bullets or abuses, and urged the home minister to implement that. Mr Abdullah's National Conference said it has sought a sustained and open-ended political engagement with stakeholders in Kashmir irrespective of their ideology.
Rajnath Singh also met delegations from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Congress and the BJP, as well as those from civil society.
The Hurriyat Conference has called for a boycott of Mr Singh's visit.
The BJP in the state has said the Home Minister is visiting the Valley with an "open mind" to resolve problems in the strife-torn state. Senior Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader Ashok Kaul said all sections must meet Rajnath Singh and put forth their points of view on issues that concern them.
The BJP rules Jammu and Kashmir in partnership with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's PDP, an alliance that brings together ideological opposites.