Interlocutors on Kashmir to take all stakeholders on board

Centre`s interlocutors on J&K said release of political prisoners can help in improving situation.

Last Updated: Oct 28, 2010, 00:32 AM IST

Srinagar/Jammu: Advocating "baby steps"
for nudging forward the dialogue process on Jammu and Kashmir,
Centre`s interlocutors on Wednesday said release of political
prisoners, stone pelters and lifting of curfew can help in
improving the situation.

After a four-day visit to Kashmir, the three-member
team of interlocutors headed by noted journalist Dilip
Padgaonkar reached Jammu to continue the consultations with
stakeholders.
The BJP state unit announced in Jammu that it would
boycott the interlocutors accusing them of pre-juding the
issues. "One wonders whether they are representing India or
Pakistan," the BJP State President Shamsher Singh Manhas told
reporters.

Padgaonkar said it was a "huge task" for his team.
"The exercise will be futile if Parliament, which represents
the political opinion of the country, is not taken on board.
We know it is a huge task but it has to be done."

He said during the four days of interaction with the
cross-section of the society in Kashmir, the interlocutors got
a valuable insight into the issue as they attempt to find a
comprehensive and permanent solution to it.

"We heard political opinions on Kashmir and also the
day-to-day problems faced by the people like not being able to
move freely or getting milk for children," Padgaonkar said.

He said one should not expect major strides after the
first visit of the team to the state, saying, "We will have to
take baby steps for pushing forward the dialogue process."

Padgaonkar said the group will be making
recommendations to the Centre, after holding similar
interactions in Jammu today and tomorrow, for improving the
situation in the state.
"The issue of release of political prisoners, stone
pelters and lifting of curfew will be among the top priorities
in the short term," he said.

Padgaonkar said he was of the opinion that peaceful
assembly and protests should be allowed in the Valley. "We
want to hear the view point of the security agencies also.
Just because 12 youngsters want to hold protests, Section 144
CrPC (prohibitory orders) cannot be invoked."

Apparently referring to the remarks of BJP MP Ram
Jethmalani, Padgaonkar said a senior leader of a political
party, which had criticised him, had broken away from the
party line to support him.

Going against the BJP position, Jethmalani had
supported the views of Padgaonkar that Pakistan has to be
involved in finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir
imbroglio.

"The fact that Parliament passed a resolution (for
getting back the territory of Jammu and Kashmir under
Pakistani control) makes Pakistan a party," Padgaonkar said.
The journalist said he was hoping that more people
will adopt a realistic attitude while an attempt is made to
resolve the Kashmir problem.

Though the separatists refused to meet them, the
interlocutors made it clear that they were prepared to meet
them.

"As and when they decide to meet us, we will be ready
but the invitation has to come from them", Padgaonkar said.

Professor Radha Kumar said the interlocutors will
travel to all the districts of the state in order to get the
feel of the ground situation.

"When we visit the districts, we will get a better
understanding about whether the deployment of security forces
and their bunkers at particular places was needed," she said.

Asked if the mandate of the interlocutors was to go
beyond the Constitution of India while seeking a solution to
Kashmir issue, Kumar said, "Constitution is such a beautiful
and flexible document that it has been amended over 100 times.
Why cannot it be done again if there is consensus on it?"
Padgaonkar said ideally a solution to Kashmir issue
should be acceptable to people from all parts of the state
including those under the occupation of Pakistan.

The interlocutors will take up with the BJP leadership
the issue of the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and
Kashmir Assembly in 2000 but rejected by the BJP-led NDA
government at the Centre.

"We will be meeting L K Advani when we go back to
Delhi to know about the autonomy resolution and why it was
dismissed," Padgaonkar said.

The Assembly in which National Conference had enjoyed
almost two-third majority, had passed a resolution with
thumping majority for restoration of autonomy to the state in
July 2000.

However, it was rejected by the BJP-led NDA government
of which National Conference was a partner.

Padgaonkar also said he would be asking for an Action
Taken Report (ATR) from the Centre on the recommendations
submitted by the five working groups formed by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh in 2006 to look at various aspects of Kashmir
issue including political and economic aspects.

Slamming the interlocutors, Manhas said their remarks
like "Kashmir dispute, dialogue necessary with Pakistan" had
cast doubts about their credibility.

Instead of talking about taking back the Pakistan
Occupied Kashmir (POK), for which Parliament has passed
unanimous resolution in 1994, the interlocutors seem to be
addressing the seccessionist and separatist elements in the
state, he said adding, "one wonders whether they are
representing India or Pakistan".

The BJP leader also pointed out that the interlocutors
met jailed inmates, pro-separatist and Hurriyat leaders in
Kashmir, which again indicates that they are not pursuing the
mandate given to them for meeting all shades of opinion in
the state in order to find the problems and the consequent
remedy for them.

Interlocutors visit Kot Bhalwal jail

The interlocutors on Kashmir visited
Kot Bhalwal Central jail on the outskirts of Jammu to meet
separatist leaders today.

Two of the three Interlocutors -- Journalist Dileep
Padgaonkar and academician Radha Kumar -- went to the jail
this evening where separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah and
Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi are lodged under Public
Safety Act, official sources said.

The team also met human rights activist and J&K expert
Balraj Puri.

The interlocutors are likely to meet another separatist
leader and Kashmir Bar President Mian Qayoom, in Hiranagar
Jail tomorrow besides visiting Kashmir Pandit camps.

PTI