Members of the all-party delegation,D Raja and Sitaram Yechury, outside the gate of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar on Sunday,September 4,2016.(Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)
Members of the all-party delegation,D Raja and Sitaram Yechury, outside the gate of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar on Sunday,September 4,2016.(Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

‘What’s the point’: Kashmiri separatists refuse to meet all-party delegates

The Kashmiri separatist leadership was cold on Sunday to advances of a breakaway group from an all-party delegation, which tried to meet and speak to them at their homes and in prisons.
By Toufiq Rashid and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi | Hindustan Times, Srinagar
UPDATED ON SEP 05, 2016 01:00 AM IST

The Kashmiri separatist leadership was cold on Sunday to advances of a breakaway group from an all-party delegation, which tried to meet and speak to them at their homes and in prisons.

The snub reaffirmed their remarks that the 30-member political team, led by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, from New Delhi was in the Valley for a photo-op, and not to solve the crisis.

Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani turned back CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, D Raja of the CPI, Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav of the RJD — all leaders of opposition parties at the Centre — from the gates of his Hyderpora home in Srinagar.

The octogenarian Geelani, who is under house arrest, sent a message — that he doesn’t want to meet the politicians — through a small opening in the locked gate.

The group called on former Hurriyat head Abdul Ghani Bhat at his home in Jawahar Nagar, JKLF leader Yasin Malik at Humhama jail, and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah at Cheshma Shahi guesthouse, which is a temporary prison.

Separately, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi met the Mirwaiz, the Valley’s chief cleric and moderate Hurriyat leader, Shabir Shah.

Read | Over 150 injured in clashes as MPs’ delegation visits Kashmir Valley

The response for the politicos was cold all along, and the separatists refused to discuss the Kashmir situation. The state has been on the edge as 73 people have died in clashes with security forces since the killing of a militant leader on July 8.

The all-party delegation reached the Valley for a two-day visit to review the situation and look for ways to end the unrest, which has drawn comparison to the crisis in 2010.

Shahidul Islam, a close aide of the Mirwaiz, said: “There should be formal talks with all three top leaders (Geelani, Malik and the top cleric). What is the point of meeting like this?”

The group of four from the delegation, however, remained upbeat. CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami said the quartet’s aim was to tell the separatists their fellow countrymen’s concern about Kashmir.

“Their visit was for a limited purpose ... and they did it,” he said.

The delegates faced anti-India and pro-freedom slogans outside Geelani’s home. “Why don’t you release the leaders from house arrest and jail, and talk,” a protester said.

The separatists denounced the delegation’s visit, saying such measures will prolong people’s sufferings in the troubled state.

They didn’t spare chief minister Mehbooba Mufti either. “The sickness of her mind touched a new low when she recently tried to justify Indian brutalities, saying Kashmiri boys don’t go out to camps with milk and toffees; that seemed to even embarrass her Indian boss sitting beside,” a statement said.

For her part, Mufti invited the separatist leadership for talks with the all-party team. She, however, insisted the invitation was in her capacity as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief, indicating coalition partner BJP was not part of the push to talk to the separatists.

Hyderabad parliamentarian Owaisi tried to corner the chief minister, asking why large-scale incidents are occurring in south Kashmir, a PDP stronghold.

National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah was sceptical, though. “Efforts like this have lost credibility as there was no follow-up of the previous visit in 2010,” he said.

During his hour-long interaction with the team, he recalled visits of such delegations since 1990 and cited former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s unfulfilled promise of “sky is the limit” for Kashmiris.

More than 100 people were killed in the 2010 uprising and the separatists met a breakaway delegation at their homes.

Ahead of the current team’s visit, the Centre approved a chilli-based shell as an alternative to pellet guns to control mobs. Pellet guns, considered a non-lethal weapon for mob control, have maimed and blinded hundreds of protesters, adding to the anger in the Valley.

The move failed to impress the people. Kashmir-based trade associations decided not to meet the delegation, saying such “half-hearted measures” won’t do.

“In 2010, we met them and gave our feedback; they went to Delhi and forgot everything. Now they want to hear the same thing again. It’s a mockery. Some members of the current delegation were here last time as well,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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