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Separatists Tight-Lipped As Centre Announces Dialogue on Kashmir 

Sources close to separatist leaders revealed that they won’t say anything until a cue comes from Islamabad.

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4 min read
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement on Monday, 23 October, that the Centre will hold its first political dialogue with the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir and appointing former Director of Intelligence Bureau Dineshwar Sharma as an interlocutor, evoked mixed reaction across the Valley.

Leaders in the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, either ignored telephone calls and text messages from mediapersons, including The Quint, or maintained off the record that they would react to the Home Minister’s announcement only after “proper assessment” and interaction with their colleagues.

“Give us some time, at least a day”, said a senior separatist leader wishing to remain anonymous.

However, sources close to the top notch separatists revealed that none of them would say anything on record until a cue comes in from Islamabad.

They will never issue a statement or reaction until they assess the mood in Islamabad. Pakistan is a key stakeholder. It has invested hugely in Kashmir in the last 70 years and got split because of this problem. Expecting a reaction from any separatist leader without discussing it with Islamabad is absurd.
Top separatist leader

He described Rajnath Singh’s offer as “vague”.

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“How Can We Hold Talks When Our Colleagues Are in Jail,” Asks Separatist Leader

“Let alone Pakistan, it doesn’t ever address the separatists. It says ‘elected representatives, other parties and individuals’. It’s apparently different from what we and Pakistan mean by demanding a meaningful, structured political dialogue. Obviously, a retired head of IB won’t have such mandate”, said the middle-rung separatist leader.

With many of our colleagues in jail, how can we hold talks with the Government?

Acting president of the second largest mainstream political party, National Conference, and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah immediately retweeted Home Ministry’s announcement with his comment:

On Rajnath’s assertion that the nominated interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma would try to understand the peoples’ “legitimate aspirations”, Omar tweeted:

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Omar also raised questions on the fate of National Investigation Agency’s probe into the charges of hawala funding against the separatists after the announcement of dialogue.

He asserted that “acceptance of the political nature of the Kashmir issue” was a resounding defeat of those who could only see use of force as a solution.

NC’s patriarch and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah welcomed the Centre’s initiation of a political process, but told a television channel that it would end up in a fiasco. He claimed that there was no sincerity in the Centre’s announcement.

“Kashmir is a political problem and it needs a political solution”, Dr Abdullah asserted while asking how a retired intelligence officer would handle the job of a politician.

Even as Rajnath’s dramatic announcement apparently came as a surprise to her party and the government, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that a sustained dialogue on Kashmir was in consonance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech.

Mufti said that dialogue was the need of the hour and the only way forward. She said the people of the state had been the worst victims of the uncertainty spread over decades and a forward movement in political process only could put a balm on their wounds.
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J&K CM Mufti Hopes for a Positive Outcome

Addressing an impromptu press conference alongwith Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh of the BJP, Mufti said she was hopeful that such a bold initiative by the Central government would boost the confidence of the people of the State in peaceful means of addressing difficult situations.

“Today’s announcement goes in line with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on 15 August this year in which he had pledged dialogue and reconciliation to reach out to the people of the State”, she said and expressed hope that the initiative would bring the same positive dividends to State and the country as had happened in the past.

Chief Minister sounded optimistic that the stakeholders in the State, sensing the need for such an engagement, would take full benefit of this opportunity to get Jammu & Kashmir out of uncertainties and contribute positively in taking the dialogue process to its logical conclusion.

She asserted her government’s commitment to working for dialogue, reconciliation and public outreach, which according to her, would help in winning hearts and minds of the people and healing the wounds of the past.

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A ‘Very Late’ Development

CPI (M) State general secretary and MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that the announcement by the Centre was a positive development, but it had come “very late”.

“Government of India delayed the announcement of starting a dialogue process on Kashmir, but finally realised that Kashmir is a political issue which needs a political resolution,” Tarigami said. “Any political initiative aimed at resolving the political issue of Kashmir is appropriate,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Front Chairman and independent MLA Hakim Mohammad Yaseen welcomed the announcement, but asserted that that it should be a “meaningful dialogue”. “Many dialogue processes through interlocutors were announced by the centre, but their reports were completely ignored by successive governments”, Mr Yaseen said. He emphasised that the Centre’s dialogue should be “time-bound and meaningful”.

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(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)

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