Government names Kashmir interlocutors, Geelani says ‘futile’ (Roundup)

October 13th, 2010 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi/Srinagar, Oct 13 (IANS) The government Wednesday named three new interlocutors, including journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, to re-start the logjammed political dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir and help bring peace in the troubled state, but the move failed to cut any ice with separatist leaders as Syed Ali Geelani termed it “futile”.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in Delhi that “we have appointed the group of interlocutors” that also includes Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari and noted academician Radha Kumar. He said a fourth person may be added later in the panel.

Calling the three “very credible people”, the home minister said the government hoped that they would “begin a process of sustained uninterrupted dialogue with all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially with youths and students and all shades of political opinion”.

The move, which Chidambaram said was a “clear demonstration of the seriousness on the part of the government of India” to solve the problems that have been there “for many, many years”, comes in the wake of renewed unrest in the Kashmir Valley in the last four months that has left at least 109 civilians dead, mostly in firing by security forces.

But it failed to break the ice in the Kashmir Valley that has been bristling with anger amid frequent shutdowns, street protests and curfews since June this year.

Geelani, who heads the hardline faction of the separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference, said: “This is a futile exercise.”

An ardent supporter of the state’s merger with Pakistan, Geelani said any dialogue with New Delhi could be possible only if the government accepted his five-point proposal that includes accepting Kashmir as an “international dispute”.

But his moderate colleagues, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference, and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik said they would weigh the option before commenting.

The Mirwaiz said his Hurriyat faction would meet Thursday to discuss the move. “We will meet Thursday to finalise our response,” the young cleric told IANS.

Malik, who favours Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state, also refused to comment but said he would weigh the option and “not jump to any conclusion today”.

The decision to have a new group of interlocutors was part of the eight-point initiative announced by the government after the Sep 25 cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Chidambaram urged the politicians of Jammu and Kashmir to engage with the interlocutors “so that we can move forward on the path of finding a solution to the problem”.

The group will cover the views of all the three regions — Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.

The government’s earlier move to engage separatist leaders in “quiet talks, quiet diplomacy” had failed in December last year. The process broke down when militants shot and severely injured Hurriyat leader Fazal Qureshi.

Qureshi is a senior leader of the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat faction that had agreed to secretly talk to the central government.

Two of the three new mediators were involved in the Kashmir peace process earlier at different times. Padgaonkar was a member of the Kashmir Committee led by eminent lawyer and now Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ram Jethmalani.

Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Millia Islamia, was engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. She was in the valley recently and had visited Geelani at a hospital in Srinagar where he was undergoing treatment.

Noted educationist and economist Ansari was a professor and director at the Hamdard University before becoming information commissioner.

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