Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interlocutors fail to impress separatists

Interlocutors fail to impress separatists

Interlocutors fail to impress separatists

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Frustrated by the lack of response from separatists, the high profile Kashmir interlocutors have said that they would submit the report to the Centre without incorporating separatists’ opinion.

"If we do not get inputs from the separatists, we will go ahead and submit the report (to Centre) nevertheless," head of the three-member interlocutors team Dileep Padgaonkar told reporters at the end of their fifth visit to the state.

The interlocutors had sent letters to all separatist outfits, including both factions of Hurriyat Conference, asking them to give their inputs on resolution of Kashmir issue so that they could be incorporated in the final report to the Centre.

"We have spared no effort to reach out to the separatists. We have stretched the limits of courtesy to reach out to them but their response so far has been negative," Padgaonkar said.

He said the team will leave it to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to judge whether the stand taken by the separatists on not meeting them was right.

In response to a question about the fate of the Kashmir Committee headed by former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, Padgaonkar said the initiative was non-official

and its recommendations were not binding on the government.

"This team is official and so far our recommendations have been accepted and now these are to be implemented," Padgaonkar, who was a member of the Jethmalani-led committee, said.

He said it was for the separatists to explain their refusal to meet the interlocutors as the team had the backing of the Government including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Padgaonkar said Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Ahmad Shah has responded to the letter sent to him by the team saying "such talks would be relevant and significant hen draconian laws are repealed, political prisoners and youth are released, withdrawal of troops begins and persons involved in human rights violations are brought to book".

"We urge Shah to embark on an engagement with us so that the very first point on the agenda could be the issues he has listed in his letter," he said.

Padgaonkar said the team will be submitting an initial report to the Centre next month which will contain the recommendations and broad contours for resolution of the Kashmir issue.

On their visit to the state, Padgaonkar said there was a broad consensus among people that the political settlement has to be found only through a sustained and inclusive process of dialogue with all stake-holders, including separatists and civil society.

"Any outbreak of violence would thwart the process," he said.

He said no single political formation of the mainstream or otherwise could claim the exclusive prerogative to speak for the people of the Valley, let alone for the people of the entire state.

Padgaonkar said there was a broad consensus on preserving the "unity and integrity of the state" while asserting the state's "special status in the Indian Union".

"The mainstream political parties in every region of the state would be required to evolve a consensus on political settlement and then seek a similar consensus with other regions of the state," he said.

"The delegations we met also insisted that the situation on the ground has to change to enable the dialogue process to progress and suggested several steps," he added.

These measures include an end to intimidation and harassment by the police and security forces, including the indiscriminate use of the Public Safety Act (PSA).

The other steps are early release of stone-pelters and political prisoners not charged with serious crimes, expediting the trial of jailed militants, bringing to book those responsible for human rights violations, redeployment of security forces and check on their special powers, corruption free governance and employment for youth.

Padgaonkar, however, said the withdrawal of army or other forces would depend on the threat perception. "Calm in a certain district does not mean threat perception has reduced," he said.

He dismissed suggestion that there were differences between the Defence and Home Ministries on the issue of reduction of the troops in the state.

"The statement about reduction of troops has to be seen in the context of which force (paramilitary or Army) it was made. I would like to believe that MoD and MHA are on the same page," he added.

In response to a question, he said the protests witnessed on the streets of Cairo were happening in India everyday as the country was a democracy.

"What you saw on the streets of Cairo, you see it in India everyday. India is a vibrant democracy, which Egypt was not," he said.

He said elections are held in the country every five years and there were enough avenues for the people to air their grievances and problems.

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