Rajnath says will ‘talk to all’ for peace in Kashmir

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Published on Aug 11, 2016 09:53 AM IST
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ByHT Correspondents

NEW DELHI: The Centre agreed to an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss how to end weeks of violent unrest in Kashmir, as pressure mounted on the government to open a broad dialogue to resolve the crisis triggered by the killing of a militant leader.

Home minister Rajnath Singh said a decision could also be taken to send an all-party delegation to Kashmir after discussions with state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on the terms and modalities of engagement.

He said the government will “talk to all, no doubt”, responding to opposition queries on whether “moderates, political parties and others” will be included in the dialogue. He, however, ruled out discussing Kashmir with Pakistan, which he blamed for the trouble in the region.

At least 55 people have been killed — most of them in police firing — following street unrest in Kashmir to protest against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces last month. The region, where a separatist campaign broke out in 1989, has been under curfew for 33 days.

Wednesday’s announcements came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s moderate vision to outline his stand on dealing with the protest sin Kashmir. In 2003, Vajpayee paved the way for the Cent re’ s first-ever talks with K ash mi rise para ti st sand laid down three principles to tackle the region’ s political crisis—Insaaniyat (humanism ), Jamhooriyat ( democracy) and Kashmiriyat ( Kashmir’ s legacy of amity).

Political experts see Modi’s outreach to Kashmir — after a long silence — and the Centre’s latest stand as a sign of nervousness that the region might have reached a tipping point.

“Like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he (Modi) should admit that there is a problem and address that,” Professor Gull Mohammad Wani of Kashmir University said. “Dialogue with separatists will definitely help. They have a separate constituency and can influence people.”

The all-party meeting is seen aimed at blunting opposition criticism in Rajya Sabha that Modi’s outreach to Kashmir was not genuine and that the government was reluctant to talk to stakeholders in the region.

On Wednesday, Rajya Sabha unanimously adopted are solution appealing “to all sections of the society in Jammu and Kashmir to work for the early restoration of normalcy and harmony and… restore the confidence among the people in general and youth in particular...”

Later, RS deputy chairperson PJ Kurien clarified the resolution will include a suggestion from CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury that confidence building measures will come through a “process of dialogue” in Delhi and Kashmir. It wasn’t clear if that will include the separatist Hurriyat leaders to whom Vajpayee had reached out.

Past efforts at finding political solutions in Kashmir, including the initiatives by Vajpayee, yielded little results. In 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a three-member team of interlocutors to the region but their recommendations were larg ely ignored.

“It requires more than symbolism and mere expressions to address the current unrest as past experiences have shown. Dialogue at various levels is imperative,” said Noor Ahmad Baba, political science professor of Kashmir University.

“Stopping the use of pellet guns will be a good beginning.”

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