Unveiling a fresh initiative to address the unrest in Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday urged the people there to "give peace a chance" and promised a sustained "internal and external" dialogue.
In his first public comments on the recent trouble in the Valley that has resulted in the death of nearly 50 people, Singh utilised a meeting with political parties from the state to reach out directly to the youth who are in the forefront of the current agitation.
"I can feel the pain and understand the anger and frustration that is bringing young people out on to the streets of Kashmir. Many of them have seen nothing but violence and conflict in their lives and have been scarred by suffering," he said in remarks telecast live to a national audience.
The Prime Minister spoke of "great pain" caused to him by the events in Kashmir and said, "I share the grief, the sorrow and the sense of loss of every mother, every father, every family and every child in Kashmir".
"Let us make a new beginning," he urged and said, " I appeal to the youth to go back to their schools and colleges and allow classes to resume. I ask their parents what future is there for Kashmir if your children are not educated?"
At the same time, Singh made it clear that the cycle of violence must now come to an end. It was the Government's duty to maintain law and order, and "we cannot allow the turmoil to continue".
The Prime Minister spoke of the "challenging task" being performed by the state police and other security forces, noting that many of them had been seriously injured in the past few weeks.
Singh also announced setting up of an expert group under the chairmanship of noted economist Dr C Rangarajan to formulate a jobs plan for the state involving public and private sectors. It will submit its report within three months.
Central Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, P Chidambaram, S M Krishna and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah were present at the meeting at the Prime Minister's House.
The state's main opposition PDP kept away but BJP, which had threatened not not to attend, chose to participate in it.
Among those participating from the state included National Conference President Farooq Abdulla, CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Independent MLAs Ghulam Hasan Mir. PTI