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Posted at: Sep 4, 2016, 4:05 PM; last updated: Sep 4, 2016, 7:46 PM (IST)

Engage people of Kashmir in talks, Congress, NC tell all-party team

Engage people of Kashmir in talks, Congress, NC tell all-party team
Home Minister Rajnath Singh chairs the meeting of all-party delegation with the J&K government, in Srinagar on Sunday. PTI photo/PIB

Ehsan Fazili/ Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 4

The Congress and National Conference on Sunday advocated engaging Kashmiris in a dialogue to end the deadlock, even as 250 people were wounded in renewed protests and clashes that erupted across the Valley.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah called for “opening channels of communication” for a political solution to the Kashmir issue.

“The situation is grave. This is a political issue, needs a political solution. You need to open channels of communication to address the problem and find a solution to the issue,” Abdullah, working president of the National Conference, told the 28-member all-party delegation that arrived here on Sunday morning.

“It is not 5 per cent of the population that is on the roads: it is much more. We have all paramilitary forces engaged in handling the situation and they fail to bring peace.”

He was referring to statements by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her Cabinet minister Sajjad Gani Lone that “only 5 per cent people in Kashmir” were protesting.

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Abdullah advocated engaging Kashmiri separatists to regain “credibility” lost after clashes in 2010.

In 2010, an all-party delegation led by the then Union home minister P Chidambaram visited Kashmir, after nearly 120 people were killed in clashes with security forces. Report by a group of interlocutors appointed to hold dialogue with all sections of society of J&K continues to gather dust at the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

‘No roadmap’

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir accused both the Centre and state governments of failing to prevent to situation from escalating.

“The state and Central governments have failed to control the situation. They have no plan and political roadmap,” Mir told the delegation.

“Our demand was to create an institution that could talk to people. We have suggested five points: ending raids, minimum use of force, revoking FIRs, providing facilities for transport fruits and compensation to victims. Now it is Home Minister’s responsibility to address the problem,” he said.

Won’t meet Geelani without CM’s consent: Yechury

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the delegation would talk to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti before taking a decision to visit senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

“We will listen to Chief Minister and decide later whether to go to Geelani’s house,” Yechury told reporters.

‘No mandate for engagement’

Separatists, meanwhile, said there could not be an alternative to a transparent dialogue to address the "core" issue, as it called upon the civil society to boycott the delegation. 

"One fails to understand what can be hoped of a delegation that has not spelled out its mandate for any engagement," separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik said in a joint statement issued here. 

Methods of "crisis management through Parliamentary Delegations and Track-Two... can't take the place of a genuine transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue", the statement said. 

"That has been our consistent stand and has been spelled out recently as well in our letters to various international fora," they said. 

The separatist leaders also criticised Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of “distorting facts” and said they were "not surprised that even now her (Mehbooba's) dominant concern, as expressed in her letter, is to 'lend credence and credibility' to the Indian Parliamentary Delegation visiting Kashmir avowedly to ascertain wishes of the people". 

They also referred to her "outburst" during a press conference with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently, and said it seemed to even "embarrass" the minister. 

Hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani has asked the separatist leadership and the civil society to stay away from the exercise, even as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti invited them to join the talks.

The Kashmir Sikh body, All-Party Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), which met the Home Minister during his last two visits, has decided also not to hold talks with the delegation, saying that there was no Kashmir agenda set for the meeting. It has also sought the involvement of the people from the Jammu and Ladakh regions to end the crisis.

Death toll in the protests that erupted after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed by security forces on July 8 has climbed to 73. Thousands — both civilians and security personnel — have been wounded.  — (With inputs from PTI)

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