The separatist leadership in Kashmir Valley refused to meet an all-party delegation from Delhi on Sunday , delivering a blow to efforts to bring all stakeholders on board for peace talks in the violence-hit state where 73 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since the killing of a militant in July.
They denounced the visit of the 28-member team, saying such “crisis management” measures will “prolong the sufferings of the people” .
Four members of the delegation --- CPI’s D Raja, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, RJD’s Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav and JD (U)’s Sharad Yadav --- tried to meet hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is under house arrest for months and is not allowed out of his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar. But Geelani turned them away.
Moderate leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Valley’s chief cleric who is in jail, too refused to meet AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, another member of the all-party team.
“He has maintained that the three top leaders (Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz) should be called to a dialogue table and there should be formal talks. What is the point of meetings like this?” a Mirwaiz aide said. Malik too is lodged in jail.
Earlier in the day, the separatists issued a joint statement after the delegation, led by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, arrived in the Valley for a two-day visit to assess the ground situation and look for ways to end weeks of unrest.
“….(such measures) can’t take the place of a genuine transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue of the Peoples’ right to self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir.
“That has been our consistent stand and has been spelled out recently as well in our letters to various international and global fora,” said the statement by three prominent separatist leaders.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had invited them for talks with the all-party team. 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.
“Indian war machine is on a spree to kill, maim and disfigure an entire population into complete submission for demanding freedom from Indian occupation which is the birth right of all human beings,” the separatists’ statement said.
“Everyone knows that people have been shouting Aazadi on the roads for those who want to listen and writing on walls and placards for those who can see. The dirty ambitions of the collaborators and their masters in Delhi have turned them deaf and blind,” it added.
Kashmir has been on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. Kashmiris have alleged atrocities by Indian armed forces during street protests.
Ahead of the visit, the Centre approved a chilli-based shell as an alternative to the controversial pellet guns to control stone-pelting mobs. Several protesters have injured their eyes and pellet guns, considered non-lethal weapons, have added to the anger in the Valley.
Criticising Mufti, the separatists said: “The sickness of her mind touched a new low when she recently tried to justify the Indian brutalities by saying that Kashmiri boys don’t go out to the camps with milk and toffees; that seemed to even embarrass her Indian boss sitting beside. They should not have forgotten that a terrorised population cannot greet an occupation army but with stones.”
CPI(M) leader Yechury said “his party wants to meet separatists and without any preconditions set by the government”.
He also said some members of the delegation will like to go to the hospital where thousands of injured are still admitted.
Opposition National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said he had no hope “from all party meet due to lack of follow up during previous efforts”.
He said CM Mufti was confused whether she was in the opposition or the ruling party. “Kashmir is a political issue needs to be solved politically. You cannot crush or brush away the agitation.”