Puri Shankaracharya, Swami Adhokshjanand Tirtha on Wednesday expressed his desire to invite the separatists to attend Kumbh Mela, the biggest religious festival of the country.
Heading one of the five main religious seats of Hindus in the country, Swami is on a visit to Kashmir valley in connection with annual Amarnath Yatra.
During the visit he met hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate Hurriyat leader and chief Muslim Cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman, Yasin Malik.
"Kumbh is a place where people from across the country converge. It is where Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati meet. And we want to invite the people with separatist ideologies from Kashmir and other areas of North east to listen to them and discuss their problems with other countrymen," Swami told Hindustan Times.
"It is an attempt towards peace. We want to send a message to our countrymen that the issue in Kashmir is not Hindu versus Muslim or Indians versus Kashmiris but it is a political issue," he said.
The Shankaracharya, who met separatists in 1998 to convince them for talks, said that Kashmiris were not 'communal’ as was the belief across India.
"I have seen the real face of people of valley. Amarnath Yatra is successful only due to the efforts of local Kashmiri Muslims. They carry the pilgrims on their shoulders, they guide and serve them during the Yatra. This image should be known to the whole World," Swami said.
"What one can infer from their thinking is that they respect Hindus but have some political issues which need to be addressed," he stated.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq confirmed that Swami met him at his Nigeen residence. "He maintained that religious people always side with truth. And he has come to portray the real situation of Kashmir in India. He also expressed his desire to invite Hurriyat Chairman to Kumbh mela as a leader and a prominent religious figure of the valley," Hurriyat said in a statement.
JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik hailed Shankacharya for 'inviting him to this year's Kumbh Mela for reaching out to the people of India'.
"Shankaracharya Jee as a religious leader rules the hearts and minds of billions of Indians. Kashmiris have always stood for communal harmony and have looked towards Swami Jee a true leader of masses and one who stands for truth and humanity," Malik said in a statement.
"During a visit to Kashmir in 1997-98, when Acharya Jee saw the sufferings of people here, he was furious. He went back and raised his voice for Kashmiris and despite a lot of pressures refused to budge and stood for the just cause," Malik stated.