Now, Track-II moves to douse Kashmir fire

August 21st, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Srinagar, Aug 21 (IANS) With the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir over transfer of land to a Hindu shrine continuing to fester, the government is trying out Track-II initiatives to create a positive climate for defusing the trouble by reaching out to all stakeholders in the conflict. The initiative came into focus after a team of senior officials led by National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan visited the state Wednesday to discuss the situation threadbare and explore different solutions, reliable sources said.

Narayanan briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday amid a growing chorus for the prime minister’s direct intervention to resolve the issue that erupted two months ago and has paralysed life in the Kashmir valley.

Sushobha Barve, head of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, an NGO involved in promoting intra-Kashmir dialogue, is already in Srinagar.

“Yes, I am here to talk to people and see how we can douse the flames engulfing the state after the bitter land row. It’s a Track II dialogue process,” Barve told IANS.

Asked if she would talk to separatists too, Barve said the leaders were busy with their Friday’s proposed Eidgah rally and she would meet them when they were a little free. “We will talk to everybody and try our best to bridge the communal gap,” she said when asked if she would hold talks with mainstream politicians.

She, however, tried to downplay her meeting with the prime minister in New Delhi Wednesday saying she has come to Srinagar as an independent citizen and not at the behest of anybody.

The government is working on a two-pronged strategy - sending senior officials and politicians for talks and Track-II - to create a conducive atmosphere for a lasting resolution of the contentious transfer of land to the Amarnath shrine board and its subsequent revocation after protests by Muslims in the Valley.

There are moderates within both camps and it is these sections that the government is targeting to hammer out an acceptable solution to both sides, reliable source said.

“One of the key proposals being floated revolves around transferring the land to the shrine board for creating facilities for pilgrims for two months of the pilgrimage, and its subsequent reversal to the government,” a reliable source said.

Senior journalist Prem Shankar Jha has already visited Srinagar in an effort to widen the ambit of dialogue. Ram Jethmalani, leading lawyer and member of Rajya Sabha, is also likely to go to Srinagar over the weekend.

The government also plans to “counter a misinformation campaign” by vigorously asserting that the land order was not about changing the ownership of the land but a short-term lease to the shrine board for a fee. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Prakash Javadekar told IANS that the shrine board had paid Rs.20 million and Rs.3 million for lease of this land.

“The prime minister should speak to all leaders, including the Hurriyat, to get peace back to the Valley so that elections can be held. Let the elections decide these issues,” said K. Subrahmanyam, an eminent strategic expert.

“There is so much delay in talking to leaders. There is no sense of urgency in the home ministry in dealing with the situation. Politicians, rather than officials, should be talking to various sections in Kashmir,” he said.

The two key parties in the conflict - Hindu activists of Jammu led by the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti and Muslim protesters in the Valley led by the two factions of the Hurriyat - are, however, showing no sign of budging from their position on the land transfer issue.

“The whole problem is the manner in which the government buckled under pressure from separatists. It’s a sinister, motivated campaign by separatists,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesperson of the BJP, told IANS in New Delhi.

“If the government wants to resolve the issue, the land must be given back to the shrine board,” he said.

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