Union home minister Rajnath Singh went after Kashmiri separatist leaders on Monday, saying their behaviour towards members of an all-party delegation that reached out to them over peace talks in the violence-hit region defied the spirit of “Kashmiriyat” and “insaniyat”.
The minister, who led a 26-member delegation of politicians to the violence-scarred Valley, distanced himself from attempts of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and other leaders to persuade the separatists for talks.
He was visibly disappointed with the opposition leaders’ attempt to go on their own to meet the separatist leaders.
“I want to clarify that some members of the delegation had gone to meet Hurriyat leaders yesterday in their individual capacity,” he told reporters before leaving Srinagar with the all-party team.
“Whatever information those friends gave us upon their return, it can be said it was not Kashmiriyat. It cannot be called insaniyat (humanity). When someone goes for talks and they reject it, it is not jamhooriyat (democracy) as well. We are ready to talk to everyone who wants peace,” he said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and three fellow politicians from the delegation tried to meet and speak to separatist leaders on Sunday, but they met with a cold response.
Octogenarian Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani turned back the politicians from the gates of his home, while former Hurriyat head Abdul Ghani Bhat, JKLF leader Yasin Malik, moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah gave the team an audience.
But no one was willing to discuss the situation in Kashmir, where 73 people have died in clashes with security forces over the killing of a young Hizbul Mujahideen militant leader on July 8. The all-party team was in the Valley to find an amicable path for normality to return to the Valley.
The delegation made no visible headway as the situation in the Valley continued to be tense, with recurring street protests.
Singh had invited people for talks in a tweet last month during a visit to Srinagar. He reiterated his stand on Monday, saying: “Not only doors, but our window ventilations are also open for anyone willing to talk to us for peace and normality in the state.”
“We all are of the view that things in Kashmir need to improve,” the minister said, promising chilli grenades to replace pellet guns in mob control, and a hotline to Delhi dedicated to the people.
CPI(M) leader Yechury was not disappointed despite the rebuff from the separatists, but maintained that a single visit of an all-party delegation serves no purpose.
“Unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders should follow,” he said, and recalled how former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee followed up his peace mantra for Kashmir — Kashmiriyat, insaniyat and jamhooriyat — with concrete steps. “He even initiated a dialogue with the militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen.”
Senior PDP leader and state finance minister Haseeb Ahmed Drabu was the first to criticise the separatists for snubbing the politicians. “Not opening the door was against the very sentiment the separatist were fighting for … the separatist response hurt Kashmiriyat,” he told a news channel.
For her part, chief minister Mufti had invited the separatist leadership for talks, but insisted the invitation was in her capacity as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief, which triggered speculation that coalition partner BJP was not on board.
Home minister Singh refused to get drawn into talk of a BJP-PDP difference of opinion over Mufti’s move. He said: “She wrote the letter, that’s it.”
He refused to comment on the PDP’s self-rule formula and the autonomy idea of the National Conference for the state, saying he wants to make a fresh start.