To enable the all-party delegation visiting Jammu and Kashmir on Monday to hear all shades of opinion in the state, the government on Friday decided to send written invitations even to the Kashmiri separatist leaders, such as Mirwaiz Omer Farooq and Yasin Malik for meetings with them.
A 39-member panel will be leaving for Srinagar, including a host of senior leaders: Home Minister P Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley (BJP), Basudeb Acharia (CPM), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party) and Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party).
"The parliamentary affairs minister will send around 30 to 40 invitation letters to various groups and individuals in Kashmir over the weekend. Several separatist leaders are in this list,” a senior government functionary revealed
In a reflection of the seriousness attached to the visit, Congress president Sonia Gandhi spent several hours discussing the Kashmir situation – where around 90 people have been killed in violent protests since early June - with her senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel, Chidambaram, A K Antony and others.
There will be a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security in Delhi immediately after the delegation returns to discuss the feedback it provides.
A member of the delegation said they were all going with open minds. “The Hurriyat may not come to meet us. But if it agrees to a meeting in principle, we can look at meeting them later elsewhere too,” he said. “The situation is fluid.”
The Hurriyat hasn’t responded to the Centre’s initiative yet. The decision to reach out to the separatists is a departure from the government’s stance during the earlier visit of an all-party delegation to the Valley in 2008, when the Amarnath land controversy was at its peak.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had opened the all party meeting on Wednesday, emphasising that dialogue was the only way to find lasting peace. “We are ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence,” he’d said. Despite the “open mind” stance claimed by the delegation, the parties these leaders represent are unlikely to dilute their known positions on Kashmir.