All parties delegation fails to feel the pain of Kashmiris

Amidst stringent curfew, an all-party delegation (APD) led by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram arrived here on September 20 on a two-day visit to state to assess ground situation that has witnessed unabated violence since June 11.

The 42-member delegation was received by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah and his senior cabinet colleagues at Srinagar airport and then the delegation headed for Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the edge of Dal Lake where it met political leaders from mainstream parties and prominent citizens across the Valley.

Chidambaram, while addressing the gathering said that the team has come with an ‘open mind’ and main purpose was to interact with people, listen to them patiently and ‘carve out a path for taking Kashmir out of this present cycle of violence’

The delegation tried to cut ice with separatist leaders, who had refused to meet them. A group of delegation members on September 20 held discussions with chairman Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) and Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman JKLF. Prior to that, Mirwaiz and Malik sent a joint memorandum to APD.

The memorandum read "Let resolving Kashmir dispute in accordance with aspirations of people of state become a Common Minimum Programme shared by all political parties in India and Pakistan". It stated that achieving solution to Kashmir issue "should rise above vote bank politics and should be taken up as a national agenda shared by all, worked for by all and risked for by all major political parties in India".

The memorandum further read "to voice our unequivocal condemnation of killings of our children and youth, we choose not to meet the delegation". The separatist leaders urged New Delhi to facilitate, establish and empower an official body–a Kashmir committee – to enter into a process of engagement with representatives of people. It added that a similar Kashmir Committee should be established in Pakistan.

"We will advocate to political parties in Pakistan that this be done. This will ensure that all major political forces in India and Pakistan are on board with peace process and it will help institutionalize and sustain process to resolve Kashmir problem", the memorandum said.

The duo further stated, "On our part we are ready and willing to engage and sustain a meaningful and irreversible process of dialogue designed to avoid failures of past and to jointly develop and implement a solution to Kashmir dispute that is acceptable to all the sides – India, Pakistan and the people of state".

However, Geelani while meeting delegation members reiterated that if five conditions put forth by conglomerate are fulfilled by central government normalcy would be restored in the Valley.

Five-members of delegation that called on Geelani at his residence included Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi, T.R. Baalu of DMK, Rattan Singh Ajnala of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Namanageshwara Rao of Telegu Desam Party (TDP).

Pertinently, Geelani had earlier said that India should accept Kashmir an international dispute, begin demilitarisation of state, revoke Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, release all political prisoners and punish security forces involved in recent killings. He also wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to publicly commit and ensure no further killings take place in the Valley.

Even opposition leader and president of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti didn’t meet APD. A party delegation, however, met them. Mehbooba stayed away from the meeting as a mark of protest against strict curfew in the valley. The PDP asked APD to reach out to protesters on streets and told delegates that "an out-of-box solution is needed to resolve Kashmir issue".

P. Chidambaram visited north Kashmirs’ Tangmarg town on September 21 where six people were killed on September 13. He was accompanied by several delegates. Residents of Tangmarg and other adjoining areas tried to stage protest demonstrations to attract their attention.

Six persons were killed in firing by security forces in Tangmarg when violent protests broke out against alleged desecration of holy Quran in USA followed by incidents of arson in which a missionary school and several government buildings were set ablaze by a mob on September 13.

The delegation also visited various hospitals in the city to meet those injured in clashes with security forces. The delegates were reportedly greeted with ‘pro-freedom’ protests at SMHS and Bones and Joint hospitals. A group of delegation members also paid obeisance at the Hazratbal shrine. Besides Chidambaram, the visiting delegation included Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah accompanied the delegation.

Apart from interacting with political leaders, representatives of trade and commerce, students and citizens also met the delegation. As all-party delegation was here, strict curbs were put on civilian movement with police and security forces not honouring curfew passes. The delegation later left for Jammu to interact with political parties and other organizations, before flying back to New Delhi.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2010 on page no. 15

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