By And Large, Kashmiris Not For Plebiscite: Padgaonkar

By And Large, Kashmiris Not For Plebiscite: Padgaonkar

22 January 2011
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: A small but “vocal” section of opinion in Kashmir is for implementation of the United Nations resolutions seeking a plebiscite and right of self-determination as a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue, the Centre's interlocutors said on Friday. Winding up their fourth visit to the State, Dileep Padgaonkar and M.M. Ansari told journalists in Srinagar that generally people were for empowerment of the democratic, political and social institutions. “A small but vocal section of opinion harped on the U.N. resolution, plebiscite and self-determination resulting in independence for the State as it existed before August 1947. By and large, however, most people we spoke to did not refer to this option [U.N. resolutions], instead reiterated their faith in democracy, fundamental rights, pluralism and tolerance, they sought the empowerment of people to enable them to realise in full measure their political, economic, social and cultural aspirations,” said Mr. Padgaonkar, a veteran journalist. Meetings not just with elite To a question how the interlocutors could gauge the sentiments of the majority when they only met selected sections, Mr. Padgaonkar said, “No, we haven't just met the elite. We have met a cross-section of people, including hundreds of youths, mainly from poor families, from the city, from district headquarters and have merely reported their political aspirations in the report. “The people we met also stressed the need to devolve power to the individuals and communities in all the constituent units of the State to avoid its division along ethnic and religious lines. Both empowerment and devolution, they [people] insisted, would have to be backed by constitutional guarantees and robust institutions for transparent, accountable, inclusive and participatory governance.” Mr. Padgaonkar parried queries whether the moderate Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, refused to meet the interlocutors. “I don't wish to spend my time clarifying and justifying anything. I have known separatist leaders in my capacity as a member of the Kashmir committee headed by Mr. [Ram] Jethmalani. I have been in touch with them ever since, I don't have to explain it every time; if there is any clarification then it should come from the concerned quarters.” Mr. Padgaonkar said the interlocutors had sought formal documents from the separatist groups. “Earlier we had not requested for talks but for documents published by these parties, but yes now we are planning for a written request for talks and let's see what their response will be.” The Mirwaiz said he turned down the offer of talks. “Mr. Padgaonkar had telephoned me to seek an appointment for talks. I told him talks cannot be held until the ground situation improves and the conditions put forward by us are fulfilled.” The Kashmir issue, the Mirwaiz said, had to be resolved through talks but for that New Delhi had to show sincerity. “I told him that they are meeting the people and they are aware of the ground situation. I advised them to make New Delhi aware of the ground realities rather than wasting time.” As for other demands, Mr. Padgaonkar said many people the interlocutors met stressed the need for reducing the number of troops. “They also wanted the process of releasing stone-pelters and political prisoners and bringing to book those guilty of human rights violations expedited.”


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