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Uncertainty over meeting between all-party team and Kashmiri separatists

india Updated: Sep 04, 2016 11:26 IST
Toufiq Rashid
All-party delegation

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti addressing during the inauguration of a hospital in Jammu on Tuesday.(PTI)

Uncertainty prevails over an all-party delegation meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders even after chief minister Mehbooba Mufti sent an invitation to the Hurriyat Conference leaders, some of whom are in jail.

A 28-member delegation, led by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, arrived in the Valley on Sunday for a two-day visit to assess the ground situation and look for ways to end weeks of unrest in the Valley that has left 73 people, most of them civilians, dead.

Situation continues to be tense is some parts. The deputy commissioner’s office was set on fire in southern district of Shopian after clashes between security forces and protesters on Sunday, a day after a PDP leader’s house was targeted in Kulgam.

Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has refused to meet the delegation unless the government accepted the political nature of the Kashmir dispute. Two other influential separatist leaders, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, are in jail.

Geelani is under house arrest for months and is not allowed out of his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar.

The opposition has criticised Mufti for asking jailed separatist leaders “to spell out a convenient time and place” for the meeting.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader MY Tarigami, whose party favours meetings with separatists, has put the onus on the government.

In 2010, his party leader Sitaram Yechury, who is part of the delegation this time as well, had led a five-member group to Geelani’s house who refused to meet them.

Tarigami didn’t rule out a visit this time as well but said other separatists leaders should also be engaged with. “It’s not only Geelani sahib, there are other separatists as well and some of them are in jail, government has to facilitate meetings with them,’’ he told HT.

Mufti on Saturday invited Hurriyat leaders for talks, asking them to lend “credence and credibility” to the outreach by the country’s political leadership.

She sent the invitation “in her capacity as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief”, indicating its junior coalition partner the BJP was not part of the push to talk to the separatists to defuse the most volatile phase in the Valley since 2010.

The state’s main opposition, the National Conference, was critical of the invitation.

“Mirwaiz is in a Govt sub-jail, Yasin is in central jail, others are spread in various prisons & she asks them to suggest the time & place!!! ,’’ former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.

“She should just give a list of the prisons used & the official visiting hours to the delegation and allow them to visit the detainees,’’ the NC leader said. Instead of sending them the invite, Mufti should have released them, he said.

The delegation’s first meeting is planned at around 11am. It is expected to talk to Mufti, then members of mainstream parties and meet governor NN Vohra later in the day.

After 2pm, they were free to hold any unscheduled meeting, government sources said.

The local traders will not meet the delegation, saying such “half-hearted measures won’t serve any purpose’’.

At an emergency meeting, they said meeting the delegation would amount to “rubbing salt on the wounds of Kashmir’s worst-ever humanitarian crises”.

“In 2010 we had met them and given our feedback, they went to Delhi and forgot about it. Now they want to hear the same thing, it is a mockery. Some of the members of the present delegation are the same as the last time,’’ Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mushtaq Ahmad Wani said.

Doctors associations will also boycott the delegation.

In Srinagar, a curfew and restrictions have been imposed in wake of the visit. Security forces refuse to accept curfew passes and have put up concertina wire barriers across the city.

A 20-year-old man, identified as Basit Ahangar, was killed in Kulgam in south Kashmir on Saturday after he was allegedly hit by pellets. Police said the man jumped into a river in panic, locals alleged that he was thrown off the bridge after he suffered pellet injuries.