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Kashmir: Indian interlocutor complete first round of talks in J&K

Srinagar: Wishing peace to return Kashmir, the recently appointed interlocutor to Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma said that he “will try his best to meet Hurriyat” and it would take “time to find a political solution to the Kashmir issue.” The Centre’s special representative during his maiden week-long visit to Jammu and Kashmir met various mainstream political leaders, social groups, youth and other delegates. Separatists refused to hold any dialogue with the interlocutor.

A former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, Sharma spent three days in the summer capital (Srinagar) andtwo days in the winter capital (Jammu) before winding his maiden visit to the state. Sharma arrived in Srinagar on November 6to initiate a “sustained dialogue” with various stakeholders.On the first day of his visit,he met several apolitical groups including representatives of Gujjar and Bakerwal associations, fruit growers, youth sports associations and some lesser-known NGOs. On the second day, he met different groups and organizations including Global Youth Foundation, Working Women’s Association (J&K SEWAA), Cross-LoC Traders’ Union, Child Protection Committee, etc.

The Joint Resistance Leadership comprising of chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik had already rejected talks with the interlocutor and had termed his appointment as “time-buying tactic adopted under international pressure and regional compulsions” (October 31). Even major trade bodies stayed away from interacting with the Centre’s special representative stating that they had no mandate to talk on political issues. Kashmir Economic Alliance chairman, Mohammad Yaseen Khan(November 7)said that the interlocutor’s meeting with traders and businessmen won’t serve any purpose and he should meet separatists to achieve a breakthrough as Kashmir needs a political solution.Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industries president, Zahoor Ahmad Tramboo (November 7)argued that misusingthe term stakeholder by inviting lesser-known people is nothing but eyewash. Sharma had been earlier quoted as saying that he would like to counter false sloganeering and propaganda available online and ensure that youth and students become part of the peace process.“I do not have a magic wand but my efforts have to be judged with sincerity and not through the prism of the past,” he stressed.

While opposition National Conference leadership was reluctant to meet Sharma, its president Farooq Abdullah said that he was not optimistic about the outcome of the same. But Sharma chose to drive to the party working president and former chief minister, Omar Abdullah’s residence in Srinagar. After his meeting with the interlocutor, Omar tweeted, “We discussed the prevailing situation in the state and also steps that can be taken to make his visits to the state more meaningful.” Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Omar said that the Government of India created misgivings about the mission of Sharma.

The Congress (November 8)asked Sharma as to whether his visit is just an attempt to influence the upcoming assembly polls in different states.The party delegation led by party leader Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that during the meeting they asked the interlocutor as to whether he visited the Valley to engage the stakeholders or “just to do time pass in the light of forthcoming elections”.

The interlocutor also met CPI (M) leader Tarigami along with Ghulam Hassan Mir and Hakim Mohammad Yasin. Following this, the trio addressed a press conference to say that they reiterated their stance that Kashmir is “a long pending complex issue which has generated untold sufferings.” On the other hand, Waheed Parra, a youth leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who called on Sharma, termed it “a meaningful dialogue process because the Central government has owned and institutionalized this process”.

All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman, Jagmohan Singh Raina, November 7, said, “We have felt that Centre has never been serious in holding dialogue with real stakeholders of the valley. It is important to take into confidence the other important sections which include three main Hurriyat leaders and big chunk of Gujjars and Shias. We also cannot ignore the people of Jammu, Dogras and people from Pahari areas of Jammu province. The only way forward is a serious dialogue that can bring peace to the valley.” Raina urged Sharma to implement minority status in the state as per norms of the Minority Commission of India, while maintaining that it was a matter of concern that even after 70 years the Sikh minority in the state is being denied the minority status. He demanded that the minorities be given an employment package at par with the migrants to stop their silent migration from the valley. He also asked the interlocutor to hold an inquiry into the Kashmir disturbances that have shattered the economy of the valley and led to a lot of bloodshed and disgruntled youth and general public at large.

Farooq Ahmad Khan, who led a delegation of Human Welfare Organization, demanded rehabilitation of released militants and highlighted various problems faced by them in getting police verification. Shafiq Mir, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Former Panchayat Members Association (November 7) demanded that the state Panchayati Act to be strengthened. Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti and some local youth delegations also met the interlocutor.

In Jammu, Chief Secretary B B Vyas and Director General of Police S P Vaid met Sharma at the state guest house on his arrival. Later, he met a delegation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by its state president Sat Sharma, who reportedly apprised interlocutor about the party’s stand on regional balance and demanded equitable development for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Later, the interlocutor called on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at her official residence. Sharma returned to New Delhi (November 11) where he is likely to provide feedback to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other senior officials.

Pertinently, a United States diplomat reportedly visited Srinagar and met three state ministers and civil society activists less than three weeks before the Centre appointed an interlocutor. According to media reports Joshua Goldberg, political unit chief at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in Washington DC, visited Srinagar along with David Arulanantham, an official from the US Embassy in New Delhi, September 27. The diplomat wanted “to know the ground situation and understand the feasibility of a dialogue”.

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