Srinagar: After spending two days virtually in isolation at a government guesthouse here, the Centre’s ‘special representative’ Dineshwar Sharma on Wednesday had a series of meetings with several key faces of Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream politics.
Sharma, a 1979-batch IPS officer and former Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) who is on his maiden visit of twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu after being appointed as the Centre’s new interlocutor to talk to all stakeholders in the restive State said he is also trying to meet separatist Hurriyat Conference alliance leaders.
“I’m also trying to meet Hurriyat leaders,” he told reporters after meeting the State CPIM secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and the leaders of two regional parties here.
He asserted, “I met many people. It was very good. I wish that peace returns to Kashmir. I will also try to meet Hurriyat.”
An alliance of key separatist leaders has termed Sharma’s appoint as “nothing more than a tactic to buy time” and refused to meet him. Several likeminded political groups and social, trade and civil society groups including the Kashmir High Court Bar Association have endorsed the view.
Sharma arrived here on a five-day visit on Monday. After spending three days in the summer capital, he will go to Jammu on Thursday to meet the leaders and representatives of different political and social and civil society groups in the winter capital of the State. He will visit the State third region Ladakh later.
While on Monday and Tuesday, only the people who are but nonentities or don’t have much power in swaying public opinion met him individually or in delegations (37 in all), it was a different day for him on Wednesday.
His first real engagement was with former Chief Minister and leader of opposition National Conference (NC), Omar Abdullah, when it comes to discharging the difficult task of holding “sustained dialogue” with those who are considered ‘movers and shakers’ of J&K’s politics and public life assigned to him.
The NC leadership appeared to be reluctant to meet Sharma and, in fact, its president and three-time Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had twice during the past two days publicly said that he was not any optimistic about the outcome of the engagement of New Delhi’s new point man on Kashmir. But Sharma instead of waiting for the NC leaders to come to meet him chose to drive to the party working president and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah’s, residence at Srinagar’s posh Gupkar Road to know his views on the issues confronting the State.
After their meeting, Abdullah tweeted, “Mr. Dineshawar Sharma & I met at my residence in Srinagar this morning. We discussed the prevailing situation in the State as also steps that can be taken to make his visits to the State more meaningful.”
Later, he told reporters that Sharma during their meeting asked for suggestions on the job assigned to him. “He asked for my opinion on how to effectively go about the work assigned to him. I hope he will act on my suggestions,” the NC leader said.
The former Chief Minister, however, also took dig at Sharma’s spending past two days waiting for people to come to see him at ‘Hari Niwas, the State guesthouse on the foothills of Zabarwan overlooking world famed Dal Lake here. He said that ‘sitting in a guesthouse and waiting for people to come and meet him won’t yield results’.
Later during the day, Sharma met CPIM leader Tarigami along with Ghulam Hassan Mir and Hakim Muhammad Yasin who head two regional political parties. The meeting was held at Tarigami’s residence here.
Following the meeting the trio addressed a press conference to say that they reiterated their stance that Kashmir is “a long pending complex issue” which has generated untold sufferings and miseries for the people of the entire State in general and for the residents of Kashmir Valley in particular and that it needs a lasting solution which is possible only through “serious credible and meaningful dialogue” with all the stakeholders.
They regretted that no serious effort has been made to address the issue, so far. “Even now when this new initiative has been taken by Government of India various contradictory voices are emerging from different power centres which are adding to the existing confusion and disillusionment,” Tarigami said. They said that they cautioned the government through its interlocutor that if the prevailing “unprecedented unrest which is the direct result of the massive and deep alienation” is not addressed the situation will go from bad to worse.
They also reiterated that the Kashmir issue is essentially political in nature and as such needs political solution. “We firmly believe that neither coercion nor violence is the option. It is not just a matter of belief only it is the lesson of history as well,” (sic) Mir said.
The opposition leaders demanded that in order to create conducive atmosphere for the Centre’s latest initiative turning meaningful, the Prime Minister “should on the floor of Parliament assure the people that Article 370 and Article 35A will be safeguarded”. They also demanded review of the cases of political prisoners in the run up to their release, withdrawal of cases against the people for their alleged involvement in ongoing unrest and an end to “undue harassment” of the Kashmiri youth.
A delegation of ruling PDP led by its vice president Muhammad Sartaj Madni also met Sharma and said to him that while it welcomes the Centre’s move it has as always desired that talks be held with all stakeholders so that amicable solution on issues confronting Jammu and Kashmir as per the wishes of people is arrived. However, the delegation also sought to remind the interlocutor about the “trust deficit” which, Madni said, “impedes any good initiative for peace and resolution”
The PDP leader said that the Centre “should do everything possible to gain the confidence of the people and stakeholders in order to sustain the process of dialogue till every stakeholder is willingly engaged”. The party sources said, “The interlocutor was also told that public perception is of disbelief and cynicism in Kashmir. The onus is on the Union government to allay apprehensions and attract political, social and religious groups of all hues for a mutually agreed common ground”. The sources added that Madni made it clear that “unaccomplished agenda” of PDP-BJP alliance “is projected as another example for insincerity. He was of the opinion that conducive atmosphere is needed for sustainable dialogue and that fulfilling already made commitments was an imperative for this. He also urged for resuming peace talks with Pakistan in the belief that the neighbouring country’s involvement will “further facilitate the process to make it result oriented”.
Independent lawmaker and leader of Awami Itehad Party, Sheikh Abdur Rashid, said that he at his meeting with Sharma said that New Delhi must give up “arrogance and unrealistic attitude” and “understand that there are no shortcuts to resolve Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the only respectable, dignified and universally accepted way to find a solution is right to self-determination”....