Interlocutors arriving this weekend
We Are For Political Settlement: Padgaonkar
Srinagar, Oct 19: The three-member team of interlocutors on Kashmir is likely to visit the state later this week to start a sustained dialogue process with “all sections” of the society as part of efforts to bring peace in the state.
Top sources told Greater Kashmir that the team headed by noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar was likely to visit Kashmir on this weekend to begin the complex process. The other two members of the team are Information Commissioner MM Ansari and academician Prof Radha Kumar.
The team had an hour-long meeting with the Home Minister P Chidambaram today and is likely to seek an audience with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi ahead of their visit to Kashmir which has been witnessing unrest for past four months over the killing of 111 civilians.
The decision to appoint interlocutors was taken at the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 25. It followed the visit of All Party Delegation to Kashmir to try and reach out to every section of society including separatists so as to help return of peace in the troubled Valley.
Though it was not clear immediately how long the team would stay in the Valley and whether it was scheduled to visit Ladakh and Jammu also on their maiden visit, sources said the interlocutors might stay for couple of days to “assess the situation ahead of formally trying to engage various shades of opinions in the dialogue process.”
The visit comes amid reports that the Center was “keenly considering” appointment of a 4th interlocutor, possibly a politician.
After meeting Chidambaram today the team told the press that “its agenda was for a comprehensive and political settlement of the Kashmir “dispute.”
Quoting Padgaonkar, PTI said the Home Minister gave an extensive idea of the mandate for the group. “The mandate, to put very simply, is that our group will hold the largest possible consultations with all sections of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir and the focus of this dialogue is to seek as large area of agreement as you can to get to arrive at a comprehensive, political settlement of the Kashmir dispute.”
He said they would be engaging with opinion leaders, political leaders, civil society groups and others in order to carry forward the dialogue.
“We are obviously aware of the history of many initiatives that have been taken but now we have been given a wide mandate. No red lines have been drawn. We have not been told to do this or do that.”
“It is, therefore, with a complete open mind that we will be going to Jammu and Kashmir as often as we can”, he said.
“Secondly, our mandate is for one year. The (Home) Minister gave us the assurance that as and when we will be coming, we will give government suggestions and recommendations that will emerge from the dialogue,” Padgaonkar said and added Chidambaram assured the panel to attend to these suggestions and recommendations personally and ensure their implementation.
Padgaonkar said the panel would be officially approaching all shades of opinion and telling them that “we wish to speak to them and we will tell them very clearly what the approach is, what the focus is?”
“And since we intend going to Jammu and Kashmir every month and spending time there, they should know it’s not an event, it’s a process and because it’s a process we can then carry forward the dialogue from month to month so that there is clarity on all sides,” Padgaonkar, who will be chairing all the meetings, said.
When pointed out that the separatists had debunked the panel because of the absence of a political leader, he said, “I think they are perfectly free to express their point of view. But what I have just told you, namely the brief we have been given by the Home Minister, is to engage in a dialogue with a view to arriving at the largest possible consensus on a comprehensive political settlement of the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.”
He said the discussions will be held with everyone including those behind bars. “It will include everyone. It will certainly include people who are in jail. It will include students who may have pelted stones, may not have pelted stones but we will reach out to the students at the University and elsewhere.
“We will reach out to all sections, leaders of opinion and that naturally includes the Hurriyat leadership as well as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and whoever else. Absolutely nothing has been told to us that don’t meet this one or meet this one. This is incomprehensible and that is what we plan to do,” he said.
He said the panel was not going with any pre-determined mind or strategy. “Strategy will be evolved as the dialogue proceeds. We are not imposing conditions, we are not reiterating clichés. We are here for a political settlement,” he said.
Padgaonkar said there was no discussion about the fourth interlocutor during their meeting with Chidambaram.
The decision to appoint non-political figures as interlocutors by New Delhi had come under sever criticism and even the JK Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had reportedly sought appointment of a politician as another member of the team.
The terms and references of the panel will be to hold talks with all shades of opinion including mainstream political parties and separatists. The panel will cover views of all the three regions-Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.
Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, has been engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Recently, she was in the Valley and met Geelani who was undergoing treatment in SKIMS in Srinagar.
Padgaonkar was part of Kashmir committee led by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani. Ansari, who was professor and Director at the Hamdard University, is an educationist and economist before moving as Information Commissioner.
The appointment of interlocutors is part of the eight-point initiative announced by the Government after the CCS meeting in September.
(with inputs from PTI)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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