April 2001 News

Kashmir talks a crowded fishmarket: Hurriyat

26 April 2001
The Indian Express
Tariq Bhat

Srinagar: THE All Party Hurriyat Conference today said it was unwilling to hold talks with the Centre as part of a ‘‘crowd’’ and called for Pakistan’s involvement in the process. The issue had been earlier debated by the working committee and the general council. ‘‘They (Centre) have invited a crowd,’’ Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat told reporters soon after the meeting. ‘‘When you talk to a crowd you are shouting in a fish market. We don’t want to board a train that leads nowhere. In fact, we want to board one which will take us to our destiny. The offer to all and sundry, including NGOs, is aimed at giving a distorted view of the Kashmir dispute.’’ When asked whether this meant rejection of the talks offer, Bhat observed: ‘‘We have not totally rejected the talks offer. We are not putting any condition but steps need to be taken in the right direction. Talks need to be initiated with a purpose.’’ Bhat said only ‘‘tripartite talks’’ involving India, Pakistan and the Hurriyat could lay the foundation for a durable and just resolution of the dispute. ‘‘Therefore, India should recognize the ground realities and act accordingly.’’ He said Hurriyat was the only true representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and it should be invited for talks along with Pakistan. ‘‘We even represent Farooq Abdullah,’’ he added. Today’s meeting was held in the backdrop of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin’s statement asking the conglomerate to keep in mind the wishes of the people of state while ‘‘devising a response to New Delhi’s talks offer’’. Also, the most vocal hawk in the Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has been building pressure on the conglomerate and had just yesterday debunked the offer for talks at a convention of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India in New Delhi. The final Hurriyat response came after three hours of closed-door deliberations over the minutes of the working committee and general council meetings on April 17 and April 19, respectively. Geelani, Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Bashir Ahmed Tota (People’s League) and Bashir Ahmed Bhat (JKLF) attended the meeting. The meeting began at 2 p.m after Geelani’s arrival from Delhi and Lone was the last to arrive. Bhat was asked how he could claim that the Hurriyat was the sole representative of the people? ‘‘Let India hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. We will accept the majority decision. If 51 per cent vote for India, we will accept that. Hurriyat represents the sentiments of the people and their heartbeat,’’ he said. Bhat said the executive had unanimously decided and clarified that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved by accepting its bitter realities. He said the conglomerate would always support a result-oriented political initiative on Kashmir. ‘‘The announcement of a ceasefire by the Indian Prime Minister was a realistic step towards addressing the issue but the hawks have ensured that the move meets the same fate as the previous ones did,’’ he said, adding that the offer for talks was a novel proposal, off the beaten track. ‘‘But it turned into a farce when things started to unfurl.’’ When it was pointed out that his Mission Pakistan was pending, he said they still believed the visit would help solve the dispute. ‘‘See there are two parties in Pakistan — the people of Pakistan and the Mujahideen leadership, and we need to talk to them. We still want to go Pakistan and return for talks with India.’’

 

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