Talks fail to take off as Hurriyat talks tough
28 May 2000
Times of India
Srinagar: The much-publicised ''talks '' have failed to even take off, with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference(APHC) adopting a tough posture against the state government, even after the release of all the separatist leaders by the Union home ministry and an equally hard stand against the APHC by the chief minister Farooq Abdullah and his NC. The APHC has even turned down the suggestion of the US diplomats to initiate talks and assurance of involving Pakistan at a later stage. Three US diplomats were here recently for talks. The released Hurriyat leaders, who had shown willingness for talks and younger section of the leadership praising Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for taking initiative, have now changed their stand against the government and launched an aggressive posture on the issue of alleged violation of human rights by the security forces. The two-day successful bandh in the Valley, 10 day-long strike in Sopore, fast by JKLF leader, Yasin Malik and Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani''s charges against the Rashtriya Rifles with attempting for demographic changes in Doda, Rajouri and Poonch have changed the atmosphere in the Valley, which was expecting return of peace in the state. Malik has decided to begin an indefinite fast in New Delhi from June. The atmosphere in the valley, which had otherwise remained peaceful after the release of the Hurriyat leaders, was again surcharged with the killing of the minister of state for power and grenade attack on the civil secretariat. For the last ten years, the APHC leaders who were virtually languishing in jails in intervals, have come to the limelight with offer for talks. The moderates among the separatist leaders have been overshadowed by the hardliners once again in the Valley. The leaders who supported the move for talks for normalcy have been isolated once again, with the militants issuing threats to those willing to attend talks, excluding Pakistan. it was the impact of the militants'' threat that the leaders have now stopped visiting New Delhi, which they frequented earlier. The separatist non-violent leaders have now control over the armed militants. The chief minister Farooq Abdullah, at a function at Jammu admitted that the APHC leaders do not wield any influence on the militants. He claimed talks with the APHC could not bring in peace in the state, as they were controlled by Pakistan. Speaking to reporters, Geelani said the Hurriyat would influence international opinion against India''s plans to acquire permanent membership in the Security Council. Geelani accused the Rashtriya Rifles of forcing Muslims to change their religious faiths in Doda, Rajouri and Poonch and cited some cases to prove his charges. However, the northern command denied the charges as baseless and aimed at maligning the armed forces. Geelani''s accusation of adding new dimension in human rights violation by the Army and talking of conversion of faiths did not help in creating an atmosphere of confidence building measure, but added to the already hostile mood in some quarters in the state. According to the defence officials, his charges against the Army were deliberate and aimed at attracting attention of the international community, which was keenly watching the progress for move for talks with the separatists. The home minister L.K.Advani, during his visit to the Valley last week had declared India was willing to talk to anyone under the Indian constitution, but not Pakistan. The defence minister George Fernandes, during his visit to the state capital had persuaded the former chief minister Syed Mir Quasim to use his influecne with some APHC leaders who were earlier in the mainstream Congress- Janata legislative politics. According to political observers here, any talks aimed at political rehabilitation of the APHC leadership would cause problems for Farooq Abdullah, who is not enthusiastic for allowing direct contact between the Hurriyat and Centre. The Hurriyat leadership, though keen on entering the central stage of Kashmir politics, are not willing to annoy Pakistan, hence they insist involvement of Pakistan in talks on Kashmir. With the Prime Minister expected to visit the state on June 7, a fresh move for talks could be initiated, hope political observers here.