A day after the all-party parliamentary delegation made the first move towards peace in the Valley by meeting separatist leaders at their homes, the BJP distanced itself from the move, declaring that it was “a personal decision”.
Day two of the 39-member delegation’s visit witnessed a war of words between Left MPs and Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader of the opposition in Parliament. Swaraj said there was no out-of-the-box thinking involved in the visits. “Some individual delegates expressed desire to meet the separatists, so they did.”
But CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta, who met Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, said, “It was our suggestion and the decision was taken in consultation with the leader of the delegation, P. Chidambaram.”
CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, who went to meet hard-line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah, said, “Some people (read: BJP leaders Swaraj, Arun Jaitley) didn’t go. It was their choice.”
However, the delegation —split into two teams — faced tough questions wherever they went in the Valley on Tuesday.
The team that went to Tangamarg — a tourist spot 40 km from here — under Chidambaram’s leadership, was asked by local tourist guide Tariq Lone that if Kashmir was the atoot ang (inseparable part) of India, why was it being subjected to such agony?
At Tangmarg, which saw widespread violence on September 13 after the telecast of a video clip of the Quran being desecrated in the US, the delegates met about 200 people, while the rest of the town remained under curfew.
The second team, comprising 14 members including Yechury, Dasgupta and Swaraj, visited the SMHS hospital in the old city. Although media was not allowed to cover the visit, eyewitness accounts say the patients refused any compensation from the government. When the leaders entered, hospital attendants and outsiders raised pro-freedom slogans.
Dasgupta told HT: “The general feeling we got was that of suppression. We realised that their grievances are genuine.”
Earlier, the group had to cancel a visit to the orthopaedic hospital in uptown Srinagar, as hundreds of people protested inside the premises. But Swaraj told media persons the visit was successful as “we have listened to the people and tried to understand what they are saying”.
CM Omar Abdullah also expressed satisfaction with the visit, saying it was due to the government’s effort that the team got a balanced view.