Separatists refuse to meet the All Party Delegation. The move seems to be right and wrong at once. Right, as the way this whole affair has been handled by Delhi makes it less conciliatory, more confrontational. And wrong, as a little thinking could have turned this small hope into a big opportunity.
Talking to Geelani, Yasin and Umar could prove a good initiative if the three would be allowed to breathe first. When you shut all doors for them, they will naturally shut them back on you. By choking them you are not negotiating with leaders, but with prisoners. Talks demand freedom – at least a physical freedom where the basic principle of human dignity is upheld. This way it looks like an underhand deal where negotiations are secretly held and what transpires can be conveniently manipulated. We have a past of such hush-hush diplomacies which Delhi ultimately used to discredit the Kashmiri leadership. All tracks – other than the straight track of transparency – are filled with suspicion and bad intent. Thus the 'trust deficit' which a well-meaning politician like Sitaram Yachuri has been talking about. Humiliating resistance leadership first by inviting them to the table and later projecting them as double-crossers has been a practice in the past. That is why any idea of breaking the ice breaks the resolve of those who otherwise want to strengthen the institution of dialogue. Misleading Kashmiri leadership will only widen the Delhi-Kashmir divide. How sincere you are or you pose to be, that sincerity will always be smeared with malice for which neither Kashmiri people nor Kashmiri leadership can be held responsible. Engage them, don't trap them.
Having said that, the response from the separatists – in this case – has not been mature. Closing doors will close all windows of hope for us. What they issued as a statement they could have laid as a condition in front of the negotiators. Mere meeting never means you have sold your soul. Leaders don't lose an opportunity, they grab it and turn it to their advantage. Leadership is not about avoiding people, it's about facing people. It's about engaging with the other. Revolution does not always demand dismissal, it demands acknowledgement. The affair is not emotional that you expect honesty as a pre-requisite. It's diplomatic where the real art lies in making the best of the worst. Instead of they using you, you use them. Sure, the talks must be open, but this could have offered that opening. And given the dark we are in, we need to seize the tiniest ray of light. Even if it's fake, your job is to make it real.