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Mehbooba hopeful, NC says no invite for talks with J-K interlocutor, traders boycott meet

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is hoping that Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma visit with break the ice, But Sharma’s first day was a disappointing one with most traders declining to meet him.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2017 23:13 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir,Interlocutor,National Conference
Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre's interlocutor for Kashmir, arrived in Srinagar on Monday for talks with various stakeholders.(Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

Most trade bodies boycotted their meetings with the Union government’s newly appointed interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, who arrived in Srinagar on Monday even as some of the major political players said they haven’t received any invitation for talks.

While chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed hope that stakeholders will take part in the peace talks, the opposition party, National Conference, said it was yet to receive an invitation from Sharma, who is on a five-day visit to the militancy-hit state. The Hurriyat Conference, which has not shown any interest in the talks, hasn’t been invited either by Sharma, a former intelligence bureau director on a maiden visit to the state after his appointment as interlocutor.

“There is always a formal invitation for talks. We haven’t been invited and we are not going and knocking on Mr Sharma’s door asking for appointment. Considering what happened to the earlier interlocutors’ reports, this makes the whole process doubtful,’’ NC spokesman Tanvir Sadiq told HT.

Sadiq said there is a proper mechanism of slotting meeting and extending invites in any such meetings in the past. “Last time when home minister Rajnath Singh was in Srinagar we got invites from home ministry through the divisional commissioner who was the nodal officer,’’ he added.

Despite repeated attempts NC president Farooq Abdullah and his son, Omar Abdullah, could not be reached.

On Sunday, Farooq had said he did not expect much from the exercise of the new interlocutor.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter to express hopes about the interlocutor’s visit.

The separatist leadership that has already dismissed the possibility of talks with the Centre “on the present premise’’ has also not received any formal invitation. The Hurriyat, however, is clear – “invite or no invite’’ they are unlikely to meet the interlocutor.

“We have cleared our position. How will the government which is not ready to discuss autonomy, talk to us?” Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told HT.

“In (the) earlier meeting with the Centre in 2002, the context was different - India and Pakistan were talking, all the stakeholders were involved. Today there is no clarity on what they want. They are just wasting time. It seems to be no more than a PR exercise,’’ he said.

Read more: There is no one ‘Kashmir problem’; and there cannot be a silver bullet solution

The hardline faction of the Huriyat issued a statement saying “forced negotiations have no political or moral justifications’’. The Hurriyat also claimed that a state representative on intervening night of November 4 and 5 expressed his desire to meet Huriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani to facilitate his meeting with Sharma.

However, Sharma will be calling on CPI (M) leader MY Tarigami at his residence on November 8. Tarigami confirmed that Sharma had sought a meeting with him.

Meanwhile, Kashmir’s apex trade body, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), turned down the interlocutor’s invitations for talks on Monday.

“The organization decided to boycott the meeting as reports from previous interlocutors yielded no results. We were invited by the Divisional Commissioner but we are not meeting,’’ KCCI president Javed Tenga said

The Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) also stayed away. “We are traders. If government wants to talk politics they should talk to politicians. We have spoken to people earlier but it’s of no use,’’ said FCIK president Mohammad Ashraf Mir.

House boat owners association of Kashmir and Kashmir hotel and restaurant owners’ federation also did not attend their meeting with Sharma.

Read more: Interlocutor’s appointment a serious effort by PM Modi, says J&K minister

Representatives of only a few organisations like Gujjar and Bakarwal conference, fruit and saffron growers association, young journalist association and few others met the interlocutor.

Official sources said Sharma will stay in the Valley for three days and spend two days in the Jammu region. He is likely to hold talks with various political parties, socio-cultural organisations, individuals and members of the civil society.

Ahead of Sharma’s appointment on October 24, security forces in Kashmir had reiterated that the door for local militants to surrender was open but there would be no let-up in the anti-militancy drive.

Violence in the valley has come down in the last few months and street protests have almost completely stopped. However, the BJP lost a a local leader after Sharma’s appointment when its Shopian district president Gowhar Ahmad Bhats was found with his throat slit in an orchard in Kiloora village, three km from Shopian town.

First Published: Nov 06, 2017 18:36 IST