Separatist Geelani opens doors to Sinha-led peace bid in crisis-hit Kashmir
A five-member delegation led by former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha which arrived in Srinagar on Tuesday met top Kashmiri hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani in an effort to break the ice between the centre and separatist leadership.Updated: Oct 25, 2016 20:57 IST
A five-member delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha met Kashmiri separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Srinagar on Tuesday in an effort to find a solution to the state’s three-month unrest.
The Hurriyat Conference hardline group leader, Geelani, allowed the delegation inside his home in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area. But the media was kept out. The 87-year-old is under house arrest.
The meeting lasted more than an hour and “in a cordial atmosphere”.
“The aim is to share the pain and sufferings of the people. If we can do that, we will consider ourselves fortunate,” Sinha said.
The delegation, which is on a three-day visit to the Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, met the Mirwaiz, the Valley’s chief cleric and Hurriyat Conference moderate group chairman, later in the day.
“They understood our point of view,” he said afterwards.
The Mirwaiz was released on Monday night from Chashme Shahi sub-jail, where he was detained since August 27.
The available option for peace is to either implement the UN resolution on Kashmir or start tripartite talks with Pakistan and Kashmiris, he said.
The Mirwaiz said the decision to meet the team was taken after consulting Geelani, underscoring that it’s not an official delegation.
For his part, Geelani demanded release of all youth and separatist leaders “so that a common and collective point of view can be put forward after consultation”.
The team was expected to meet JKLF leader Yasin Malik too, but that is unlikely now as he is undergoing treatment at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) for an undisclosed illness.
Former Union minister Sinha told reporters before his meeting with Geelani that the delegation was “not official” and its members were there in their personal capacity to assess the situation in the Valley after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
At least 90 people have died and hundreds were wounded in the unrelenting public protests after Wani’s death.
Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik have been jointly issuing weekly protest programmes ever since the unrest started in the Valley.
Sinha’s party distanced itself from the delegation, saying the BJP has nothing to do with it.
The team comprises Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, former air vice-marshal Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan, and Sushobha Barve, the executive director of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
“Besides separatists, we are meeting a cross-section of Kashmiri people to understand their difficulties,” Habibullah said.
“We are not in conflict or competition with anyone we just want to contribute to contribute to peace.”
Sushobha Barve is seen in New Delhi as someone who has the confidence of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. She said the team spoke to Mufti as permission was required to meet the leaders who are jailed or under house arrest.
The Sinha-led delegation’s visit follows a similar but futile exercise in September when Union home minister Rajnath Singh brought an all-party team to Srinagar.
Geelani had then refused to meet four parliamentarians from the team — CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D Raja, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and RJD’s Jay Prakash Narayan — when they went on their own to his home to break the ice.
(With inputs from HTC New Delhi)
First Published: Oct 25, 2016 13:45 IST