Divided Team Leaves Kashmir - Lawmakers Hold Separate Meetings21 September 2010
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: Delhi’s all-party delegation was a divided house as it left Kashmir today, groups of lawmakers having separately met Hurriyat leaders without the mandate of the full team. Different teams of MPs dropped in at the homes of Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani and moderates Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik over yesterday and today. The meetings took place in the full glare of the media, embarrassing the guests as the separatists raised the azaadi demand. None from the Congress, BJP and the National Conference was part of any team. Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, however, met Malik and Geelani while Assaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen met the Hurriyat hawk and the Mirwaiz. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj claimed the lawmakers did not have the mandate of the 39-member delegation. “It (meeting with separatists) did not have the mandate and it was not discussed (yesterday)…. That was their personal decision, not the decision of the delegation. If some people want to go, we cannot stop them. But we decided not to go,” she said. Swaraj’s claim was, however, countered by the assertions of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and Paswan that the teams enjoyed the confidence of the delegation. Chief minister Omar Abdullah echoed them, saying the meetings were “part of a plan”. Paswan spoke to Geelani about the security of the minorities, including the Pandits and Sikhs. Owaisi urged the separatists to help restore peace and normality in the Valley. Even as the chinks showed, the delegation ventured out for a taste of the Kashmiri street, meeting people in hospitals or at state-managed gatherings in Tangmarg and Hazratbal. Wherever they went, they were greeted with azaadi slogans. There were only a few dozen people at Hazratbal when the delegation landed there. Asked what they wanted, a middle-aged man said: “You have spilled enough blood in Kashmir. We request you with folded hands to leave this place.” He later said: “One of them asked me why we don’t want to live when India takes enough care of us. I asked him why did India fight the British when that country was taking enough care of them.” Tough questions awaited the delegation at Tangmarg, too. “If Kashmir is your atoot ang (inseparable part), why don’t you feel its pain? Why are you (forces) showering bullets at people?” a youth asked home minister P. Chidambaram and others. AFSPA to stay Junior defence minister M.M. Pallam Raju has decried the “demonising” of the army in Kashmir and ruled out an amendment in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Raju said the army was being made a “scapegoat” and the AFSPA was a “necessary security blanket” required to fight terror. “The Indian Army is not responsible for the turmoil in the Kashmir Valley. Its presence has been helping the law and order situation,” Raju said in Delhi.