Decade-old Kashmir Committee resurrects
Recast Panel To Visit Valley Next Month
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, Apr 19: A group of civil society actors led by senior lawyer and parliamentarian Ram Jethmalani are reviving a decade-old committee on Kashmir that aims to open channels of dialogue with the people of the state to work out solutions to the issue.
The group that also has in its ranks senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, academic and editor Madhu Keshwar and journalist M J Akbar, will next month travel to Kashmir to revive their tradition of holding meetings with the people of the state, including members of civil society, media persons, and people with political affiliations including separatists.
The five day visit will begin from Srinagar on May 5 and the meetings will be held in both north and south Kashmir till May 9. The committee members, however, are quick to state that their work is in no way confrontational to the government appointed panel of interlocutors.
“A few of us had nearly a decade ago formed a Kashmir Committee to resolve the Kashmir problem that has bedevilled relations between India and Pakistan. We believe we had made significant progress and a solution appeared near at hand. Unfortunately, it was put on the back-burner,” said Jethmalani, reading out from a joint statement of the members.
He said the appointment of the interlocutors was a welcome move and hoped their recommendations will be of help in making progress. Keshwar said the work of the committee on the ground had resulted in a extraordinary conference on Kashmir in New Delhi early last year where people from all political streams - both mainstream and separatists - had managed to agree on the PDP Self-Rule framework which laid out a formula for demilitarisation, political restructuring and economic integration of the two parts of Kashmir.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t cash on the gains made in that extraordinary meeting, but some of us have been in touch with people on the ground in Kashmir and we want to open alternate channels of communication which can prevent many a misleading information that come out here in Delhi,” she said.
Jethmalani is also travelling to Pakistan next month, along with a group of five people, on the invitation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary.
The visit comes after a peace mission from Pakistan comprising 130 eminent lawyers visited India and decided with the Supreme Court Bar Association of India to work towards peace and strengthening of democracy, and openly discuss contentious issues.
Keshwar said their role would be supplementary to all other such initiatives in Kashmir, including those of the interlocutors, and they were viewing it as more of an exploratory visit for their future meetings.
A number of separatist leaders, including Shabir Shah and Abdul Ghani Bhat, too have given their consent to be part of the deliberations of this committee.
Jethmalani said: “We want to make it clear that we do not align with or represent any political party. We are a deeply concerned group of citizens supplementing the work of all others who have the same commitment and are engaged in pursuing the goal of Indo-Pak peace and an honourable and viable settlement of the Kashmir problem.”
Also on the committee are former MEA Secretary Vinod Grover and a young television journalist Wahidur Rehman.
“We have no confrontation with the group of interlocutors, if they have a good report we will be more than happy. And if they have not been able to establish contacts with some people, we would be nothing but happy to facilitate such contacts,” Keshwar said when asked about the panel of interlocutors who are already working on the issue.
She pointed out that there were essential differences in the nature of their committee and they plan to continue the meetings with all sections of people.
“We will not be holding durbars. We can, being a private group, just knock on the doors of the people so that we just don’t keep meeting the same people. I believe people would have responded in a much better way to senior politicians, say a Nitish Kumar (as interlocutors),” she said.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Apr 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Apr 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Apr 2011 00:00:00 IST
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