Advani reprimands Indian Home Ministry officials
24 February 2004
The Daily Times
NEW DELHI: Concerned at the unresolved situation in Jammu and Kashmir, India's Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani has stepped in to make a last ditch effort to clear stumbling blocks in his peace talks with Kashmiri leaders.Highly placed sources told Daily Times on Tuesday that Mr Advani has reprimanded officials on the lack of follow-up to his historic January 23 meeting with moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders.Mr Advani reprimanded Home Ministry bureaucrats after a government interlocutor for Kashmir, NN Vohra, called on him and expressed concern at the lack of follow-up by the Indian government. He reminded Mr Advani that promises were made to Hurriyat leaders that the momentum of peace would be taken to the common people in Jammu and Kashmir, but they have not been realized. Mr Vohra added that since the beginning of February, the state has witnessed a spate of custodial killings, military operations and murders of political workers, especially those belonging to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's People's Democratic Party. Before coming to Delhi for talks, Hurriyat leaders had told backroom interlocutors that besides focusing on the settlement of the Kashmir issue, India needs to offer general amnesty to active militants, release prisoners, halt the use of the Public Safety Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and other draconian laws and withdraw the Border Security Force and military from civilian localities.The People's Political Front (PPF), one of the participants in the New Delhi-Hurriyat talks, last week pulled out of the dialogue process after claiming that the government was not taking the talks seriously. PPF Chairman Fazal Haq Qureshi was part of the five-member Hurriyat delegation that held first round talks with Mr Advani in Delhi last month. The PPF will not participate in the talks until there is a perceptible change in the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir, PPF spokesman Mohammad Musadiq said in a statement after a meeting of its executive committee in Delhi. Hurriyat spokesman and former chairman Mohammad Musadiq also asked the Indian government to quickly inform security forces about Mr Advani's directive to avoid human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. He said it was imperative for the ground situation in the state to improve for a fruitful and meaningful dialogue process. 'If incidents continue like Chitti Banday in Bandipora, which represents human rights violations of the worst form, they might affect the dialogue process,' said Mr Bhat.He expressed regret that New Delhi had not released any of the detainees, something the Hurriyat had recommended as part of confidence building measures to help the peace process. Instead, he said, the government tried to hoodwink the world by releasing timber smugglers instead of political activists. 'We have a list of the prisoners released. Some of them are timber smugglers, thieves and pro-government militants involved in serious crimes. The state's government, with much fanfare, had announced the release of 34 prisoners on the eve of Id-ul-Zuha and India's Republic Day last month,' he said. The Home Ministry bureaucracy has also rejected the release of another 10 prisoners currently lodged in Delhi's Tihar Jail. Through interlocutors, Hurriyat leaders gave the list to the Home Ministry on February 2. Sources in Delhi said that officials had expressed their inability to release at least five of the prisoners because they were allegedly involved in cases of murder, funding militancy, arms seizure and transfer of secret security documents. Hurriyat had then requested that at least the five prisoners be tried in courts and in front of the people. Hurriyat leaders are upset at the Home Ministry's refusal to release even 70-year-old Prof Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, Saifuddin Bhat, Hurriyat spokesman in Delhi Shabir Ahmed Dar, Zamroda Anjum and Srinagar-based journalist Ghulam Mohiddin Bhat. Sources said the list of 10 names was passed on to the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police for comments by the Home Ministry. Both, as expected, strongly voted against the releases.