To Take Peace Initiative Forward, Jethmalani Holds Crucial Talks On Kashmir

To Take Peace Initiative Forward, Jethmalani Holds Crucial Talks On Kashmir

7 August 2012
India Today
Naseer Ganai

Srinagar: Unlike Kashmir interlocutors, who failed to bring separatists, human rights activists and civil society groups on board during their year-long exercise, Ram Jethmalani's Kashmir Committee in past three days has created a flutter in Kashmir by entering into dialogue with all. First, Jethmalani had an extensive meeting with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chairman of hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference. Jethmalani said he would take up the issue of Geelani's continuous house arrest in the Supreme Court. Even though the Geelani faction said on Tuesday that it would not enter into any sort of parleys with the government of India at any level till New Delhi accepts Hurriyat's five conditions, it insisted that talking to any individual or group in non-official capacity is not an issue. First among five conditions of Hurriyat is that New Delhi should accept Kashmir as a dispute. 'The biggest hurdle in the resolution of Kashmir issue is New Delhi's obduracy and stubbornness. No agreement on Kashmir can be reached till New Delhi shows flexibility and acknowledges Kashmiris' right of freedom,' said the Hurriyat's spokesman Ayaz Akbar. He said the Hurriyat has no objection in talking to any individual or group who visits it in non-official capacity to form public opinion about resolution of Kashmir issue. 'Geelani sahib does not talk to any guest secretly in a closed room but he holds these talks openly,' he added. After Geelani, Jethmalani had detailed meeting with Hurriyat moderate faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Mirwaiz had refused to give audience to Kashmir interlocutors. He also met senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah. On Sunday he heard human rights activists, lawyers and traders. 'If any person comes in his individual capacity we have no issues in talking to him,' said Shakeel Kalander, president, Chamber of Commerce and Industries. 'We are not averse to have interaction with civil society and different groups from India,' he said. Upbeat over his forays in Kashmir, Jethmalani told reporters here that 'extreme position' from both the sides should be abandoned. 'Majority of the people in J-K want a peaceful solution and for this a compromise on the respective stands is inevitable,' he told media persons. 'If a hardliner like Geelani sahib sits with me to talk Kashmir problem it must be seen as an indication that there is a scope of compromise on certain issues from the separatist camp.' Like Kashmir interlocutors, other official interlocutors also faced problem in entering into dialogue with the separatists. K C Pant was appointed as the Centre's first official interlocutor on Kashmir in April 2001 but Hurriyat Conference had refused to meet him. Pant met separatist leader Shabir Shah - then operating outside Hurriyat fold - and the former J-K chief minister Mir Qasim. And with it the initiative died without any trace. Then Jethmalani came onto the scene. He headed Kashmir Committee that was formed in August 2002 to open an informal channel of communication with separatists. Supreme Court advocate Ashok Bhan was its convenor. Other members included former law minister Shanti Bhushan, Dileep Padgaonkar, retired Indian Foreign Service officer V K Grover, eminent lawyer Fali Nariman and the then Asian Age editor M J Akbar. However, it didn't make any headway then. The present governor N.N Vohra replaced Pant as the new point man on Kashmir in February 2003. Like Pant, he also struggled to make a contact with Hurriyat leaders who insisted they will not talk to any functionary from New Delhi less than the Prime Minister himself. On October 13, 2010 the Central government appointed Dilip Padgaonkar, M.M. Ansari, and Prof. Radha Kumar as Kashmir interlocutors. They submitted their report to the Union home ministry. During their one-year long interlocution barring meeting senior Hurriyat leader Abbas Ansari they failed to engage any significant separatist leader. Even Ansari later accused them of gate crashing.