Centre urged to invite Hurriyat for talks
6 January 2001
New Delhi: Following indications that the Centre might involve Hurriyat Conference in a dialogue on Kashmir, the campaign to accord political legitimacy to the All-Party Hurriyat Conference has been stepped up. The Vajpayee government has been urged to invite Hurriyat leaders for a formal dialogue to resolve the crisis in the Valley. Mufti Mohammed Syed, former Union home minister and an arch rival of the National Conference chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, today suggested that New Delhi should strive to work out a 'package' acceptable to both parties - the Centre and the Hurriyat. Going a step further, Mr Syed even urged the Centre 'to invite Pakistan to the negotiating table for lasting peace' in the Valley. A matching statement was issued today from Srinagar by Mr Mufti's daughter, Ms Mehbooba, and her colleague Abdul Karrah of People's Democratic Party. They blamed Dr Farooq Abdullah for jeopardising the prospects of a dialogue between Hurriyat and the Centre by raising the autonomy issue. Officials said Dr Abdullah had told the Prime Minister about his reservations on the government ordering the release of Hurriyat leaders without taking him into confidence. Dr Abdullah said he had information that the Centre might hold talks with Hurriyat Conference leaders. The confabulation of the Shankaracharya with some key Hurriyat leaders, including Mr Yasin Malik in Srinagar, might have prepared the groundwork for a dialogue between New Delhi and Hurriyat leaders, informed sources said. Mr Vajpayee's statement today that the government would hold wide-ranging talks on the autonomy demand of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly invited criticism from Congress. The party spokesman, Mr Anil Shastri, wanted the Prime Minister to clarify whom the government would hold talks with. There was no reaction from the government as officials refused to say anything on the step the Centre might take on the demand for autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir. The government is trying to retrieve the file prepared by the Narasimha Rao government which contains some secret notes on Jammu and Kashmir related to autonomy. A Narasimha Rao associate said the former Prime Minister had worked out a package that could not be implemented as Congress lost elections in 1996. The CPI national executive, which ended its three-day conference here today, came out with a suggestion that the special provision of Article 370 of the Constitution be made a permanent Article and the Centre grant more autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. The party general secretary, Mr AB Bardhan, said while CPI was in favour of more autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, it had strong reservations on a number of recommendations contained in the Kashmir Autonomy Report.