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Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan addressed the media today.
Smt. Jayanti Natarajan said that the situation in Jammu & Kashmir is rapidly returning to normal due to the efforts been made at various levels and talks been carried out by the Central Government and by the Governor. First steps towards normalcy have been taken with the relaxation of curfew today and it is our earnest hope that this will develop and peace will spread in the Valley and the situation will return to normal in a very near future.
As we are all aware this unfortunate situation in Jammu and Kashmir is the creation of the forces for whom their own personal interests' appear to be above the interests of the people and the nation.
The most tragic aspect of the ongoing agitation is that it is based on complete falsehood and lies. It is significant that the Yatra itself has continued completely undiminished. In fact, according to official figures available, Amarnath Yatra for 2008 was conducted from 18th June to 16th August. And in this period of two months 5,29,697 pilgrims had darshan in Amarnath. This is a record for the last 20 years. And the year wise figures for the last five yatras during the tenure of this government were 4 lakh in 2004, 3.88 lakh in 2005; 2.65 lakh in 2006; 2.14 lakh in 2007 and 5.29 lakh in 2008.
Whereas when BJP-led NDA was in government, the figures were 1.73 lakh in 2000; 1.19 lakh in 2001; 1.10 lakh in 2002 and 1.53 lakh in 2003. So pilgrims arrival in 2008 is slightly less than the pilgrims arrivals in all the years from 2000 to 2003 put together.
The yatra was not disturbed at any time in any way and yatris not only had Darshan but did it in safety. And the State government as well as the Amarnath Shrine Board together with the efforts of the people of the Kashmir Valley have provided all the necessary facilities and made the effort for the yatra to be conducted peacefully.
So, in this background, the agitation which is based upon total falsehood and also upon completely irrelevant issue because it has no bearing whatsoever. The latest decision of the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet as reiterated on July 1, 2008 is a full commitment to discharge all the responsibilities creating the required infrastructure and providing logistical support for the welfare, safety and security of the pilgrims. Therefore, there is absolutely no threat whatsoever to the Amaranth Yatra. There are no interests of any of the pilgrims or anybody else which have been hurt.
Jammu and Kashmir is symbol of composite culture of India. And the Indian National Congress is deeply saddened that a manufactured controversy like this should be used to damage the carefully nurtured secular fabric of our country.
The agitation has disrupted normal life, the schooling of children and the destruction of public property in a State that is struggling to build its infrastructure. All the parties, particularly parties like the BJP and the RSS which had earlier demanded trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, a demand that was supported by Mr L K Advani and the BJP, should remember this.
People should remember that in a sensitive state like Kashmir a very dangerous agitation like this should be reined in at this point of time in order to protect the national interest and narrow political gains should be avoided. Otherwise, if an economic blockade continues or as attempted by the RSS, it will only provide some kind of support and encouragement to forces that are against the growth, prosperity and integration of India.
To a question of transfer of land to Yatra Board during the period of Yatra of two months, Smt Natarajan said the issue will be studied by a committee to be set up by the Governor. All issues should be sorted out by stake holders through dialogue. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has already provided more than what the court has requested. In terms of building the Yatri Niwas that was build by the government, the State government has already taken responsibility of providing accommodation to the pilgrims and also providing safety and security to them.
To another question, she said we are asking the BJP to fulfill their obligation as an Opposition party and their failure will be judged by the people of India. We want to just make sure that their lies are exposed because this is an attempt to divide the nation which is not succeeding. But their attempt should not give handle to those forces which are inimical to the country.
To another question, she said the government led by Ghulam Nabi Azad has done a great deal in the State.