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Voices from Kashmir: Unconditional talks, compassion the way forward

Back in Delhi, the all-party delegation has endorsed dialogue with “all” stakeholders in Kashmir, but there is little clarity if “all” includes the separatists who snubbed the team when it was in the Valley.

Burhan_wani_kashmir Updated: Sep 08, 2016 14:23 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Kashmir talks

Paramilitary soldiers arrive during clashes in Batamaloo area of in Srinagar on Wednesday. (Waseem Andrabi /HT Photo)

Back in Delhi, the all-party delegation has endorsed dialogue with “all” stakeholders in Kashmir, but there is little clarity if “all” includes the separatists who snubbed the team when it was in the Valley.

While those in the government insist on “talks within the ambit of the Constitution’’, the opposition wants the separatists Hurriyat Conference leaders, including those in jails, to be part of the dialogue process.

The death toll in the unrest has climbed to 75, the separatists and the government are trading charges and the clashes that have rocked the Valley for two months continue.

Kashmir experts and political parties are of the view that a proper “follow-up and engagement’’ are the only ways forward.

National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said the all-party delegation achieved nothing and there was no sense of urgency to restore calm in the state.

“I’m struggling to find a single achievement that the all-party delegation can lay claim to after visiting J&K. Nothing comes to mind as yet!” Abdullah tweeted.

“If all they had to do was issue this tame & sterile appeal they could very easily have done so without wasting the time and money on a visit.”

The 46-year-old leader insisted on a “more sympathetic attitude from both the Centre and the state towards the problem’’.

The first step would be to find a replacement for pellet guns, he said. “Now, they are saying we can’t replace but will use in rarest or rare cases. How do you define that?”

Pellet guns used by security forces to control stone-throwing mobs have caused a lot of injuries, especially to the eye, fuelling anger against government and troops.

“Kashmir is locked up for 60 days. You can’t wait for harvesting to start and people to get exhausted,’’ Abdullah said, referring to the next few weeks when apples and other fruits will be picked.

His party colleague Ali Mohammad Sagar and Left leader MY Tarigami proposed unconditional dialogue with separatist leadership, saying the cycle of killings had to stop and the Hurriyat needs to be engaged with.

“There is so much work done on Kashmir, you don’t need to start afresh. Look at the recommendations by past committees, interlocutors and act on them,’’ Tarigami said, calling for confidence-building measures.

Abdullah said the government would have to come up with a coherent long-term policy. An empowered parliamentary committee talking to various stakeholders would be a good start.

A visible public engagement with the Hurriyat was not possible at the present juncture but steps could be taken for creating a conducive atmosphere, he said.

The state government was more of a problem than a solution, he said. Comments from those in the government were making the situation worse.

Trader bodies, which, too, refused to meet the political team, said Kashmir needed a political solution. “No economic packages... Unconditional talks should be resumed immediately,’’ said Mushtaq Wani, president of the Kashmir chamber of commerce and industries.

The ruling PDP said the all-party delegation was in the Valley to express solidarity with people of Kashmir. “This doesn’t have to stop there... this time the Prime Minister is in full control of the country and has unprecedented authority and majority that something tangible comes out,’’ PDP spokesman and senior minister Naeem Akhtar said.

He said his party was not going to invent any solution but “you have to give people of Jammu and Kashmir a message that they are part of a great democracy’’.

The PDP was for regularly engaging with the people. “Once that is done, solutions will emerge automatically,” Akhtar said.