The offer of "quiet dialogue" by union Home Minister P Chidambaram has not gone down too well with separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir with hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani rejecting it saying it was an attempt to "discredit him" as he had not softened his stand.
The pro-azadi Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has termed the talks offer "sheer hypocrisy" as "talks and killings can't go together". Opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti has said the centre should take some "tangible measures" to restore confidence before initiating any talks.
Speaking to some media persons in Srinagar late Friday evening, Geelani, chairman of the breakaway Hurriyat group, said: “I won't participate in any dialogue process unless India accepts Kashmir as a disputed territory, withdraws its troops from the Valley and helps implement the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir.”
Geelani said there had been no change in his stand and accused New Delhi of trying to create confusion among the masses by extending the talks offer to him.
“I strongly reject the talks offer by the Indian home minister. It is a conspiracy to discredit me and an attempt to suppress the ongoing agitation for the right to self-determination,” he said.
He also said there was no question of softening his stand on Kashmir as was being projected in a "wrong way by New Delhi".
The central government, in order to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir, had Friday said it would resume dialogue and asked the separatists including Geelani to join the effort.
Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the centre was keen on fulfilling its promises, including those on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and reduction of security personnel in the state, depending on the situation in Kashmir.
Chidambaram also said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be receiving an all-party delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, possibly next Monday, and that leaders of parties in parliament would also be called for a meeting.
Referring to Geelani's statement against stone pelting, the home minister had remarked, “If it marks a shift of his stand, I don't know. If yes, I would welcome. It is a good sign.
“We will pick up threads, reactivate the political process so that a solution can be found with equity, justice and honour.”
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, declined to make any comment on Chidambaram's dialogue offer.
The pro-azadi Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) vice president Bashir Ahmad Bhat said, “The JKLF was never opposed the talks.
“But these should be aimed at resolving the long-standing dispute. New Delhi has never been sincere on Kashmir. Besides, talks and killings can't go together. This is sheer hypocrisy.”
In the mainstream political camp, the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti said before New Delhi initiates any dialogue process it should initiate certain tangible confidence building measures, including release of all the separatists and youths arrested during the ongoing protests.
“On one hand they talk about initiating political process and on the other Rapid Action Force (RAF) is marching on the streets here,” Mehbooba said.
Senior leader of the ruling National Conference (NC) and Rural Development Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said the state government especially Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had been trying to initiate the dialogue process between separatists and New Delhi.
“There is no denying the fact that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved politically. We have been making efforts to engage the separatists in talks but it has been facing bottlenecks.
“We welcome the statement of the home minister and believe separatists have to be taken on board to resolve the vexed issue,” Sagar said.
Summing up the apparently irreconciliable attitudes of the different players, a newspaper editor here aptly remarked: “Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story. Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored.”