Three interlocutors on Kashmir have become very special people to Jammu and Kashmir as they have occupied the centre-stage in the state where all eyes are now set on the summer of 2011.
It is believed that the work of the three interlocutors-noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former information commissioner MM Ansari–whose appointment was greeted with skepticism and even contempt in some quarters, are now seen as-would be architect of Kashmir solution.
It is believed that the summer of 2011 would be different from the previous three years when the Valley witnessed violent protests. The most violent clashes were witnessed in the summer of 2010 when 112 people were killed.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told a rally in Srinagar on Thursday that the summer of trouble would “not be allowed to be repeated in 2011”.
All this is due to the efforts of the interlocutors. It was acknowledged by the Union Home Secretary GK Pillai on Friday, who said: “since their appointment in October 2010, the group has spoken to hundreds of people and many groups.
“People, who have never been heard, are now speaking,” he said at a seminar in New Delhi on Friday.
Pillai that the interlocutors would "give their final set of proposals for a political solution (of Kashmir crisis) by April.” This observation read with his declaration that 25 per cent of the troops would be reduced in Jammu and Kashmir is seen going to the credit of the interlocutors.
During the past three months, much has changed in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Valley where the tide of secessionism of the summer of 2011 has subsided to a large extent. The noise of the secessionist voices has faded, as the interlocutors visited the state at regular intervals, talking to the people and making observations that gel with the peoples’ thinking and aspirations. That it had made a difference to the situation became obvious when chief minister could move in a down town area in Srinagar on Thursday, which preceded a recruitment rally of police in the city a day earlier.
“Although I would not say that the situation has turned around because of them (interlocutors), but they have made a contribution to this effect,” observed seasoned political commentator of Kashmir, Tahir Mohi-ud-Din. “Their efforts have set off a rethinking in the separatist camp, where some of them are for talks,” Tahir who also is the editor of a widely circulated and respected Urdu weekly, Chattan or the Rock, told Hindustan Times. In this regard it is pertinent to note that chairman of the United Jehad Council, a combination of 14 militant outfits, Syed Sallaha-ud-Din, has shown his willingness to enter into a dialogue with the Centre if “it made a sincere offer for talks.” Former chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Abdul Ghani Bhat told Hindustan Times on Thursday : “I think we should be talking to everybody”, and he implied the interlocutors as well.
It was on October 13 – exactly a week after chief minister Omar Abdullah had made a politically explosive speech on the floor of the legislative assembly questioning the nature of accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India-when the union home minister P Chidambaram had made announcement of the appointment of the three interlocutors, all of whom were recognized for their brilliance, but were profiled as having little or no knowledge about the complex issue of Kashmir.
As on Friday, when nine months are left for the interlocutors – to complete their work and suggest ways out to resolve the Kashmir issue, which has been attracting adverse publicity, especially during the summer’s unrest in the Valley, the talk across the state is as to what the interlocutors would recommend and how would that help in finding a way forward. In political circles here, it is seen as no mean achievement given the fact a great deal of skepticism had greeted their appointment. An atmosphere of fear and uncertainty prevailed in October. “Azadi” sentiment had subjugated everything else. This time around, these are the issues of the governance and delivery that have come to fore. So much so, the nay sayers, like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, felt the need for “sadak, bijli and pani” in his address at Friday congregation. It was not difficult for the common man to read the message when the hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that he had called off the stream of protests, though this fact emerged only after the people stopped responding to his calls for general strikes.
Politically, the most significant change was seen when the main opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti who had termed the appointment of the interlocutors as insignificant, interacted with them and presented her point of view, which is important for she represents a party holding substantial presence with 21 seats in the house of 87. What has not been noted as yet is that the interlocutors’ thesis of “discussing everything under the sun” and speaking in the language that connected with certain sections of people, while sounding unpalatable to several others, did change the international perception about Kashmir. It is out of the global attention.
The real test for the interlocutors and their work would be if the unrest fails to erupt in the summer of 2011. So far, there are signs to that, but those kind of indications were there in 2008, 2009 and 2010 as well. “Despite their contribution, there is no guarantee that there would be no trouble in the summer of 2011. Everything seems calm during winters and spring and as the summer approaches, the trouble erupts,” Tahir said. But, there is a hope that the summer of 2011 may be different.