All party delegation meets different shades of opinion in Kashmir

Demands ranging from restoration of autonomy to withdrawing all security forces from J&K were made to the all party delegation headed by Chidambaram as top leaders of PDP and the separatist factions kept away.

Srinagar: Demands ranging from restoration
of autonomy to withdrawing all security forces from Jammu and
Kashmir were made to the all party delegation headed by Home
Minister P Chidambaram as top leaders of PDP and the
separatist factions kept away.

But small teams of the delegation reached out to the
separatists by meeting their leaders at their residence where
they were given their frank views.

The 42-member delegation that included BJP leaders
Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury
and Gurudas Dasgupta embarked on a two-day visit to the state
to assess the ground situation against the backdrop of
unabated unrest that has claimed over 100 lives in the last
three months.

There has also been a strong demand for withdrawal of
the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act from NC, PDP
and other sections in the state.

At the outset, Chidambaram promised the people of the
state that their future, honour and dignity are secure as part
of India.

"We hope and believe that the honour, dignity and future
of Kashmiris are secure as part of India," he said promising a
patient hearing to the people of Kashmir.

The delegation met representatives of mainstream
political parties like the ruling National Conference and
Congress and opposition PDP besides that of trade

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti chose not to meet the
delegation but sent a 15-member team which asked the Centre to
come out with "out of box solutions" for resolving the Kashmir
issue. Mehbooba accused the state government of repressive
measures and trying to hijack the delegation.

The National Conference team which was headed by state
Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather demanded restoration of
autonomy that existed prior to 1953 as the best solution to
resolve the Kashmir issue.

The moderate faction of Hurriyat and JKLF sent a joint
memorandum to the delegation demanding setting up of Kashmir
committees in India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to
the Kashmir issue.

Hardline Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani neither
went to meet the delegation nor sent any memorandum. Five
members of the delegation including Yechury and Asaduddin
Owaisi went to his residence where the 80-year old leader
bluntly aired his separatist views.

Geelani told them normalcy cannot be restored in Jammu
and Kashmir unless the security forces are withdrawn and New
Delhi recognises Kashmir as a dispute.

"Discuss the question of Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute.
It is not an integral part of India," he said when Yechury
pleaded for restoration of normalcy with the separatist leader
who has been one of the key players in the three-month long
agitation by issuing periodic calendars of protests.

Two other teams of the delegation met Hurriyat leader
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF leader Yasin Malik separately to
know their views. Neither of the two ministers--Chidambaram
and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal-- were
part of the teams which met the separatists.

Senior CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta told the Mirwaiz that
separatists should drop the demand for `Azadi` and discussions
can be held on any other issue.

Farooq, who wore a black band around his arm when he met
the team members, bluntly responded by saying that "sentiments
of the people of Kashmir" could not be "negated".

"You have to accept the reality that Kashmir is a
dispute and India, Pakistan and Kashmiris should together
resolve it," he said.

The Hurriyat leader said there could be no movement till
there is consensus on basic issues and people of Kashmir
should be given right to choose.