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The Central government will not do anything "against the sentiments" of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said today, amid a raging debate over the fate of Article 35A under which residents of the state get special privileges. He also expressed willingness to meet "anyone who wants to help" in resolving problems of Kashmir, responding to a question as to whether the government is ready to hold talks with the separatists. Singh, who is on a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir since September 9, told reporters here that the tree of peace in Kashmir has not dried up and that a permanent solution to Kashmir issue is based on five 'C's -- compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence building and consistency. To a question about legal challenge to Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to acquire immovable property in the state, Singh said the Centre has neither initiated any action nor gone to the court in this regard. "There is no reason for any doubt or speculation on this issue. Unnecessarily an issue is being made out. Central government has not initiated any process on this issue, we have not gone to the court," he said. "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. I think there are no issues left.
It is very unfortunate," the home minister added. His comments assume significance as there has been a raging debate over the fate of this Constitutional provision ever since it was challenged in the Supreme Court by a woman who has alleged that it was discriminatory. Several Kashmiri mainstream parties as well as separatists have opposed abrogation of this Article, warning that it would have serious consequences. Opposition National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah immediately reacted to Singh's assurance, saying it would silence all the "noises" against Article 35A. "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," Omar tweeted. Asked if the government was ready to hold talks with separatists, the home minister said, "I am willing to meet anyone who wants to help us in resolving problems of Kashmir. There is no question of a formal or informal invitation. Those who want to talk should come forward. I always come here with an open mind." He said the government does not want to leave out any of the stakeholders with whom dialogue should be held.
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