The rift among the Centre's three interlocutors – tasked to draw up a road map for a political resolution of the problems in J&K – showed no signs of narrowing on Tuesday, with one panelist, Radha Kumar accusing her colleague of a "smear campaign" over her participation in international conferences.
Kumar had recently sent an email to home minister P Chidambaram protesting against her colleague, Prof. MM Ansari’s remarks about her attending a European Parliament conference organised by the Tramboo Centre in 2006 in Brussels.
On Tuesday, Kumar said she was “angry about the smear campaign being indulged into by Ansari".
Ansari had asked his two colleagues, Radha Kumar and the team leader, Dileep Padgaonkar - to come clean on all their foreign visits after being appointed interlocutors in light of questions raised about their previous participation in seminars organised by ISI-linked entities.
Prof. Ansari shot back, calling Kumar’s charge as “totally malicious”. “I have said nothing wrong about my colleagues,” he retorted.
“I have only asked them to disclose all visits that they made, and tell the people if any of them were sponsored by any foreign organisation,” he said.
“The kind of a job we have requires us to be completely honest to the people of J&K… there is already too much distrust and without trust, our report would not carry weight”.
Padgaonkar refused to get into the controversy raised by his colleague, saying his immediate focus was to finalise the report by September-end on the strength of the extensive discussions and visits to the state and would not be distracted by the simmering controversy.
Padgaonkar, however, made it clear that anyone was open to see where he had travelled on his passport. Listing out the countries that he had visited, he emphasised that his visits were either in his personal capacity or his professional as a journalist.
The panel – set up in October last year – has covered 18 of the 22 districts in the state and met over 600 delegations.