5-member Indian delegation meets Hurriyat leaders

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Accept Kashmir as a dispute: Mirwaiz; Need for tripartite talks: Bhat

Srinagar—Former external affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha led five-member delegation Tuesday called on top Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat and held elaborate deliberations with them. Soon after reaching Srinagar, the delegation led by Sinha and comprising former Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, Wajahat Habibullah, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, veteran journalist Bharat Bhushan and Executive Director of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve called on Syed Ali Geelani at his residence. Before entering the Geelani’s residence, Sinha told media persons that the delegation had come to understand the sufferings of Kashmiri people and that they did not represent the Government of India. The delegation held an hour-long meeting with the veteran Hurriyat leader and after the meeting Sinha seemed content at the outcome of the meeting.
“We had come to talk, we talked, and we talked in a cordial atmosphere,” he said. “Our aim was to engage and we were successful in engaging.”
On whether New Delhi would take any peace initiatives to break the 109 day ongoing uprising in Kashmir or revoke Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Sinha said, “I’m saying nothing on it.”
After meeting Geelani, Wajahat Habibullah said they had no mandate of Government of India.
On whether this initiative would pave way for dialogue between New Delhi and the Hurriyat leadership and New Delhi and Islamabad, he said, “We have not come for that.”
After the meeting, Hurriyat Conference (G) said in a statement that the conversation took place in a cordial atmosphere and Geelani reminded the delegation about the historical perspective of Kashmir issue that was pending a final resolution since 1947.
Hurriyat (G) said people had rendered huge sacrifices for settling the long-pending dispute and referring to the ongoing uprising, Geelani told the delegation that for the last 109 days, 94 people had been killed, 15,000 injured and another 15,000 arrested, most of who were youth.
The statement quoted the octogenarian leader as saying that around 100 people were arrested everyday and draconian laws like PSA were slapped on them and the arrested people were being shifted to jails outside Kashmir valley.
Hurriyat (G) said Geelani told them that the arrested people included elderly men as well as juveniles.
Commenting on the prevailing situation, the Hurriyat (G) Chairman told the delegation that the onus of peace in the region, particularly in Jammu Kashmir lies with people in power and having a military might.
Geelani told the visiting delegation that along with people, Hurriyat leaders and activists had also been put behind bars and he himself had been placed under house arrest for the past 6 years.
Calling for release of all people and leaders and withdrawing of cases against them, Geelani said only after that could a common and collective point of view be arrived and put forward after proper consultations. After meeting Geelani, the delegation called on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who apprised them about the ongoing uprising in Kashmir.
The Mirwaiz told the delegation that the Hurriyat was not against talks but GoI should accept Kashmir is a disputed territory and involve New Delhi and Islamabad in resolving the vexed issue.
Later the delegation also met Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) Chairman, Shabir Ahmad Shah at Police Station Rajbagh.
A spokesman of DFP said Shah told the delegation that Pakistan was an important stakeholder and its participation in dialogue for resolution of Kashmir issue was a must.
During the meeting, which lasted an hour, Shah told the delegation that draconian laws like PSA were being indiscriminately slapped on minors and youth.
He said the government forces had damaged crops, cut down trees, damaged private properties and fired bullets and pellets against peaceful protests while hundreds of youth and children had been blinded. Shah told the delegation that Kashmiri youth today were holding stones but India was pushing them toward guns by carrying inhumane of atrocities.
The delegation also met senior Hurriyat (M) leader and Muslim Conference Chairman, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat at his office. During the meeting, Bhat highlighted the role Indian intellectuals needed to play for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Bhat said that the need of the hour was to resolve Kashmir issue by devising a mechanism for a fruitful and result-oriented dialogue process between New Delhi, Islamabad and people of Kashmir.—RK

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