Hurriyat, Samiti Ready For Talks

22 August 2008
The Times of India


New Delhi: In what could be seen as a 'positive' development in breaking the Jammu versus Kashmir logjam, leaders from the two regions have assured an all-faith 'peace mission' that they are open to dialogue with each other. The mission, which visited both Jammu and Srinagar with the Centre's approval and facilitation, was told by Hurriyat leaders from the Valley that Kashmiri Muslims were prepared to facilitate the Amarnath yatra. While the essential issue of allotting land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board remains the nub of the dispute, the preparedness of both sides to meet and talk is a gain. So far, the Centre has not been able to open dialogue between leaders of the two regions. When home minister Shivraj Patil visited Jammu at the head of an all-party delegation, the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti refused to meet PDP and NC leaders. Sangharsh Samiti's Leela Karan Sharma assured the delegation - which consisted of Muslim, Hindu and Christian leaders - that they were ready to talk with leaders from Kashmir only as long as the core issue of allotting the land at Baltal is addressed. Hurriyat leaders have also agreed on talking to Jammu leaders, who have continued a total bandh in the region for the last 54 days. Representing the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told the peace delegation, 'The yatra and Amarnath cave is not an issue for us today. The yatra has never been opposed by us... it is only a propaganda against us. The yatra has continued even when bullets were being fired.'