It''s foolish to write off Hurriyat : Jethmalani
20 October 2002
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Kashmir Committee chairman Ram Jethmalani today said it would be ''foolish'' to write off the Hurriyat Conference even though the separatist group did not participate in the just-concluded Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. ''I do not believe it (Hurriyat) is getting sidelined. It may have demonstrated its strength if it had participated in the elections. But, it will be foolish to write them off,'' Jethmalani said when asked whether the polls and the results would begin the process of sidelining of the Hurriyat. Jethmalani told PTI that the very fact that Hurriyat leaders have publicly repudiated advice from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) not to talk to the Committee showed the ''direction in which the wind is blowing''. He said all elements in J and K have to be won over to ensure there was an ''emotional'' loyalty to India. ''We are not going to talk to Hurriyat alone, but to all elements including the State Government representatives,'' he said. Jethmalani also spoke about threst in the working of his Kashmir Committee which recently held discussions with US diplomats. This was reflective of Washington’s effort to gauge public opinion on a possible long-term solution to the decade-old militancy problem, he said. ''They are exploring all avenues of access to the public opinion and to the centres which have the ability to influence public opinion,'' Jethmalani said. The Committee, which included eminent editors Dileep Padgaonkar and M J Akbar and former diplomat V K Grover, recently held talks with Donald Camp, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, for more than an hour. This followed the Committee’s earlier meeting with US Ambassador Rober Blackwill a few days ago. Asked why the Americans were showing so much interest in the working of KC, Jethmalani said ''they are anxious to know what role the Committee would play as the elections are over and whether it would shut shop.'' ''On our part we wanted to know whether America will sustain its interest in the region and and show the same level of intensity with which they have worked so far,'' he said. Jethmalani said in these meetings ''we could instill confidence and assure each other that we will continue to work until a concrete solution emerges.'' He said Americans value the Indian democracy a lot and were ''as convinced as any one of US that any solution hammered out by leaders has to be acceptable to the people''. He said a solution to the vexed Kashmir issue ''must harmonise the conflicting interest of all political groups within the State.'' Maintaining that the situation in Kashmir presented a very complex and complicated prism, he said ''one thing is certain — perceptions and aspirations of Ladakh and Jammu are not the same as those expressed in the Valley. And in the Valley, there is so much of difference of opinion — a whole spectrum of conflicting opinions.'' He said ''people who think freely and who have no political self-interest should be at a premium'' and added ''that explains the American interest in the committee’s work.'' Jethmalani, who is going to the United States for a short visit in the first week of November, would meet certain separatist leaders settled there. He said the Committee would work as a ''stabilizer'' or a ''facilitator'' in bringing together all elements playing some kind of a role in the State. ''Our main task will be to convince everybody that not finding a solution is a disaster and, therefore, a solution has to be found,'' the former Law Minister said. ''The other point which we will try to drive home was that a peaceful solution must involve, as the Hurriyat leaders have acknowledged, abandonment of extreme positions. Give and take will be the new mantra which will be the core of the solution.'' Asked about the JKLF leader Amanullah Khan’s invitation to the committee to visit Pakistan, he said the invitation was pending and the Committee had not taken any decision on it. On the Committee’s visit to the Jammu and Kashmir, Jethmalani said ''we were planning to go last week but as no popular Government has come into existence we have tentatively fixed it for October 27.''