The centre has made it clear to opposition leaders that it is open for talks with “all stakeholders” as far as the issue of Kashmir was concerned, at a meeting held to brief them on the Amarnath tragedy. It has also said the Amarnath attack on July 10 that killed seven pilgrims was not because of any security lapse but because the bus got late with two of its tyres getting deflated and subsequent delay in getting the passengers on board the bus.
The government had reached out to the Opposition by holding two briefings on Indo-China standoff at Doklam and the Amarnath terror attack. A total of 13 parties participated in a one-and-half-hour briefing on the second day. Several questions were asked to home minister, home secretary on the tragedy, one of which was why did the bus took over five hours to reach Anantnag when it should have ideally taken only 90 minutes.
Official sources told ET it was informed to those present in the meeting that the bus has two deflated tyres and by the time that was fixed, the passengers had gotten down from the bus and it took time to get all of them on board again to resume the journey back.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri asked the home minister about the government’s promise to solve the Kashmir crisis and talk to all stake holders, including the separatists to which home minister Rajnath Singh reminded him that the doors were shut on the delegation that went to the valley last time but the Centre’s doors are open to all for talks. “Hamare darwaze, khidkiyaan aur Roshandan sab ke liye khule hai…,(our doors, wondows and ventilators are open for anyone who wishes to come and talk),” the home minister is learnt to have said.
Yechuri told ET that he had told the home minister that no one would come to talk unless invited for talks. “There was no reply then. Also our questions on how the bus managed to get left out despite security arrangements that the government is claiming, haven’t been answered yet.”
Home ministry officials however clarified that the terror attack was not due to any intelligence failure, but more because of terrorist using a sensitive area to target the pilgrims. It was also told to the opposition leaders that attacks on pilgrims have been occurring for many years now.”There have been 35 attacks since 1995 which have left 46 persons dead and 141 injured.
Between 2004 and 2008 there were 17 attacks,” a home ministry official said.
It was pointed out that despite the attack, the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine continued to increase, said officials.
Last year, in all 2.21 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine whereas this year, already 1.77 pilgrims have visited the spot. The yatra is scheduled to go on till August 4. On an average, 10,000 pilgrims visit the shrine everyday.
The centre has also listed ways it plans on improving security for the yatris, saying three battalions of the army are guarding the routes.