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Back to old Kashmir peace process

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Centre could approach the separatists after the report by interlocutors fails to find any takers

Iftikhar Gilani 
New Delhi

Syed Ali Shah Geelani

The Centre could possibly warm up to separatists again to maintain peace in Jammu & Kashmir after the report of interlocutors didn’t find any takers even before going public. Exactly a year after disregarding the separatists’ overtures, the Union government is now dusting out pre-conditions and formula set by them.

Moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s 10-point prerequisite and his hardline colleague Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s five-point formula, proposed last year at the height of street protests, was rebuffed by officials and the political brass here, who instead appointed a three-member panel comprising noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academic Radhka Kumar and bureaucrat MM Ansari. A ‘quite dialogue’ between the moderate faction of Hurriyat and Home Minister P Chidambaram ended abruptly in December 2009 after a deadly assault on a key leader Fazl Haque Qureshi.

Failing to find the separatists on the same note, the Centre could wink first. There is possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself taking charge of Kashmir as prior to 2008, when separatists were invited for talks. It was quite evident by the way the Home Ministry went into a fire-fighting exercise after chief interlocutor Padgaonkar said that the separatists had missed the bus by refusing to meet the panel.

A Home Ministry official dismissed the belief that the there was no hope for dialogue after the interlocutors were rebuffed by the separatists. There was still hope for dialogue, the official said implying that the separatists could be approached. “The report is not the end of the day,” he said. Referring to separatists, the official said, “We have to acknowledge the reality; they are there.” Describing the report of interlocutors as an important milestone in the peace process, the official said, “It is an ongoing process and not an end.”

Ahead of the summer protests that claimed more than 100 lives, Farooq had kicked off the dialogue by presenting a 10-point charter.
1. Immediate end of military, para-military and militant action.
2. Withdrawal of the army from towns and villages, and dismantling bunkers, watch towers and barricades.
3. Release of political prisoners.
4. End of human rights violations.
5. Annulling repressive laws.
6. Restoring the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstration.
7. Allowing the Kashmiri leadership, which favours a negotiated resolution, to travel abroad.
8. Issuing visas to the Kashmiri diaspora to visit the state.
9. Creating necessary conditions for an intra-Kashmiri dialogue embracing both sides of the ceasefire line.
10. Allowing a transitional phase before the decisive elements of the peace package are put into effect.

In a US cable released by WikilLeaks, the separatist leaders had revealed security concerns in a secret dialogue. During their interaction with American officials, they had expressed fear that the assassination attempt on Qureshi served a message to them.

At the height of street protests, Mirwaiz had pruned his proposals demanding revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Public Safety Act and similar draconian laws, withdrawal of troops, removal of security bunkers from cities, towns and villages, and release of all prisoners, including detained youth.

Geelani, who spearheaded the 2010 protests, and is seen a man against any engagements had also, forwarded five conditions for talks.
1. India should accept J&K as an international dispute.
2. Announcement of demilitarization monitored by a credible agency like the United Nations.
3. Prime Minister should commit publicly and ensure that there are no killings and arrests.
4. Stop committing human rights violations, and release of prisoners with the withdrawal of cases pending in courts.
5. Repeal all draconian laws granting impunity to the troops.

Track-II actors now say that except for the first condition of recognising the Kashmir dispute as international, the rest set by Geelani could form the basis of talks. They point out that both the Centre and the state are willing to talk with Geelani.

Not only the separatists, both mainstream political parties–the National Conference and the opposition People’s Democratic Party–as well as the Congress party’s local unit has also rebuffed the interlocutors’ report saying most of recommendations were administrative in nature.

National Conference leader and MP GN Ratanpuri said the report had vindicated the stand of the separatists that the appointment of the interlocutors was merely an exercise to “buy time”. “The interlocutors have only acted like the employees of the Central government. New Delhi’s non-serious approach to the issue has given rise to militancy in the state.”

Congress party’s state unit general secretary and noted lawyer Ashok Bhan said the interlocutors exercise lacked faith, confidence and credibility. “This wasteful exercise proved yet another form of political skulduggery and lack of political sensibility,” he said in a statement.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com 

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