All-party delegation begins talks in Kashmir, separatists stay away
Srinagar: The all-party delegation from New Delhi, which on Monday arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to assess the ground situation in Kashmir, is holding consultations with the state representatives.
The delegation, led by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, first held consultations with the representatives of the ruling National Conference.
State Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather told a press conference after the meeting that his National Conference party had reiterated the demand for greater autonomy for the state during the consultations.
He said granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir was the key to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. He however added that the party was also open to any other better option than autonomy for J&K.
Rather claimed that alienation of the people of the state has been increased but no step is being taken to bridge the gap.
He also criticised those demanding abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution (granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir), saying "they were living in a fools` paradise".
Rather further said that the NC supports holding talks with all stakeholders, including separatists like hardline Hurriyat faction leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but added it was for them to come forward and hold the consultations.
We had reservations: PDP
The all-party panel, which is seeking ways to defuse the three-month unrest in Kashmir Valley, also met a delegation from the PDP but its chief Mehbooba Mufti was not a part.
Instead, Mohd Dilawar Meer, general secretary of the main opposition party, led the 14-member delegation.
"The visit has been hijacked by the ruling party," Mehbooba had said, referring to the ruling National Conference.
After interacting with the all-party panel, members of the PDP delegation said, “We had reservations and did not want to meet the delegation; but there was a moral obligation, as we were part of the decision to bring in an all-party delegation.”
“The reservation is that the curfew is not being lifted. Can there be a free opinion in a curfew atmosphere,” they said.
On what transpired in the meeting, they said that the all-party delegation has been made aware of their demand that steps must be taken towards the resolution of the Kashmir issue besides wriggling the people of the Valley out of the present crisis.
"Although we were given just 15 minutes to put our point, we have told the delegation that they have to come out of the fixation and come up with out of the box solutions to resolve the Kashmir issue. All suggestions from the mainstream or separatist quarters should be considered," PDP leader Nizamuddin Bhatt told reporters.
He said the all-party delegation should have visited the affected areas, including the hospital and district headquarters, to get a first hand account of the sufferings of the people.
‘Reach out to civil society’
J&K Congress president Saifuddin Soz, who was speaking to the media after his party’s representatives met the all-party delegation, said “the integrity of the state was very important… as doing anything against it will be detrimental to all the people of India”.
Soz further said that after the discussions, the stakeholders will try to arrive at a consensus.
According to him, there was a need to find an "unconventional" solution to the Kashmir issue and he would push for a consensus for it.
"We have to find out ways...," he said.
The senior Congress leader added that he had told the delegation to “please give a response to the situation (in Kashmir) which is qualitatively different, cross the line and reach out to the civil society”.
Separatists send memorandum
Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik have decided to skip the meeting but they have sent a joint memorandum to the team.
While Mirwaiz termed the initiative by the Centre as "a facade", Mailk was more cautious, saying, “We are presenting all that we want to say in form of a memorandum.”
"It is a creative memorandum. Hope it is taken in the right spirit and that the delegation understands the pulse of the people," Malik said further, adding, "this visit has no utility if they just want to come here and go back."
Malik said they decided not to meet the delegation as curfew has been imposed in Kashmir for the last four months and people were suffering.
The 42-member team, which arrived here on a crucial two-day visit to assess the ground situation, was received by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, as curfew remained clamped in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The death toll during violence and clashes in the last three months is now at 103.
Some members of the 42-member delegation are also expected to
call on Syed Geelani at his Hyderpora residence here.
Though Geelani has officially refused to meet them, he said the delegation members will not be turned away if they decide to call on him at his house as they were guests.
Shortly after arrival, Chidambaram said each major political party in J&K has been allotted 15 minutes.
"It is very important that you use your 15 minutes to your best advantage," he said.
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