Interlocutors begin interaction with Kashmiris
Govt using all of its good offices to arrange meetings with separatists
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 23: Congress-led UPA government’s lately constituted three-member team of interlocutors on Jammu & Kashmir today arrived in this capital city on its maiden visit with the challenging task of interacting with diverse shades of political opinion to find a resolution to the unrest in the border state. Even as hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has dismissed Centre’s fresh initiative as “non-serious” and called for total boycott to the “futile exercise”, political establishment from
New Delhi to has begun all possible efforts to arrange some meetings of the Kashmiri separatists with the interlocutors. Srinagar
The three-member team, comprising eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Central Information Commissioner, M M Ansari, reached here today to kickstart a fresh process of interaction with the people of different political ideologies, particularly the separatists who have made the government systems defunct with street demonstrations, stone pelting, arson and shutdowns since June this year. Over a hundred civilians have died in different incident of Police and armed forces action in the Valley since June 11th while as over 2,000 civilians are estimated to have sustained injuries. According to official statistics, two civilians and a Police constable also got killed in attacks of the stone pelting groups and around 4,000 Police and CRPF personnel sustained injuries. Public properties worth more than Rs 100 Cr were also destroyed during the current spell of agitation.
Authoritative sources told Early Times that members of the Central team today called on the former Chief Minister and senior Vice President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who briefed them for over an hour on international and domestic political aspects of the
Kashmir problem as also the “administrative incompetence” of Omar Abdullah-led coalition government. According to these sources, Baig dwelt at length on PDP’s concept of ‘self rule’ and asserted that peace would remain elusive to the Valley until the Kashmiris living in territories under Pakistan’s control were associated with a political solution. He claimed that a united council of the elected legislators from both sides, without prejudice to sovereignty of the two countries, would be a symbolic but highly significant development to ease out tension and thus douse of flames of over six decade long conflict.
Before the detailed interaction with Baig, Ansari paid his obeisance at Hazratbal shrine and two of his associates---Padgoankar and Kumar---met a number of political prisoners at Srinagar Central Jail. With the help of Police authorities, Padgoankar and Kumar also met detained Chairman of National Front and a senior leader of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference. Sources said that on the directions of the state government, jail authorities produced a number of separatist activists, including some former militants, before the two interlocutors. All of them invariably maintained that ‘Azadi’ (separation from
India) would be the only solution to the Kashmir dispute.
From their interviews to media at SKICC and their government guest house at Sonwar to their meeting with the political prisoners at Central Jail, the interlocutors, particularly Padgoankar, maintained that Jammu & Kashmir was a “disputed state” and
was a party to the 63-year-long dispute. “Had it not been a dispute, why should we have been here?” Padgoankar asked correspondent of a national television news channel. He and his associates made it clear that they make all possible efforts to meet all shades of political opinion, particularly the youth engaging in stone pelting and the separatists angry over human rights abuse by Police and armed forces. They said that they were keen to interact with the young students and understand their aspirations. Pakistan
The interlocutors revealed that they would be regularly visiting J&K in the next 10 months and staying here for at least ten days a month before formulating and submitting their report to the Prime Minister.
Early Times learned from well-placed sources that notwithstanding Geelani’s boycott to the Central team, government agencies from
New Delhi to were making “all possible efforts” to arrange meetings of certain separatist leaders with the interlocutors. Sources did not elaborate but indicated possibility of a couple of “secret meetings” between some separatist leaders and the interlocutors. Unlike recent “reality shows” with the all-party delegation of MPs, these meetings, if matured, could take place by night, far away from the media limelight. Srinagar
Sources said that inspite of their public posturing, some of the prominent separatist leaders had already given their “green signal” to individual intellectuals for meeting with the interlocutors with a brief on removal of bunkers, initiating government action against “killers” of over 100 demonstrators, release of political detainees, revocation or at least amendments to Armed Forces Special Powers Act, involving Pakistan with the dialogue process and declaring J&K formally as a “disputed territory”. Like their recent meetings with President of India and others in
New Delhi, besides earlier meeting with the MPs in Srinagar, these advocates of Azadi are expected to meet the interlocutors in the next three days in . Srinagar