The three-member group of special emissaries appointed by New Delhi for Kashmir on Monday said the participation of people in the panchayat polls and the Kashmir problem are two different issues.
“People participate in elections to address basic issues. Polls and the Kashmir issue are far away from each other,” said chief interlocutor Dilip Padgaonkar, who was flanked by academician Radha Kumar and former information commissioner M.M.Ansari, during his eighth visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
But Padgaonkar was quick to add: “No doubt people by participating in the polls have shown faith in democracy”. The 16-phase panchayat polls have recorded more than 80% participation till its seventh phase.
On their six-day visit to Kashmir, the interlocutors attended a peace conference organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Peace Foundation, headed by Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, in Srinagar on the first day.
Speaking at the conference, Padgaonkar said, “I am glad to announce that we can see light at the end of the tunnel…but it’s the people of Jammu and Kashmir who know the broad contours of the political settlement of the issue.”
Padgaonkar said during the team’s seven visits to all the regions in the past “it was felt that there is yearning for peace with justice in Kashmir”. “Majority of people asked for continuation of dialogue to find permanent settlement (of the Kashmir issue),” said the chief interlocutor.
The three-member interlocutors were appointed by Union home ministry in October last year in the back drop of street protests, which continued from June to September. Around 112 people were killed in the street protests.
Padgaonkar disclosed that an interim report has been shaped up by the interlocutors. “The report will be submitted to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister soon,” said Padgaonkar. The final report, Padgaonkar said, will take some time.
“We have to meet mainstream and non-mainstream leadership. We would try to meet even those who have kept away so far,” said Padgaonkar while referring to the separatists groups.
Except separatist rebel Itihaad-ul-Muslimeen, headed by Abbas Ansari, no separatist group has met the interlocutors so far. Ansari faces suspension from the moderate Hurriyat faction for meeting the group.
Monday’s peace conference was also attended by Islamic Arab League ambassador Ahmad Salem Al-washdi. “Our aim is to restore old glory of Kashmir, especially communal harmony and brotherhood,” said Bhat.
Bhat said he is inviting head priest of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to participate in the global peace conference to be organized by the peace foundation in Srinagar this year.