Kashmir Unrest: Of informal ‘peace ventures’ and unofficial group visits

A number of unofficial groups from New Delhi are rushing to Kashmir these days to meet who’s who of Kashmir politics in the wake of six-month long unrest in the region.
Kashmir Unrest: Of informal ‘peace ventures’ and unofficial group visits
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A number of unofficial groups from New Delhi are rushing to Kashmir these days to meet who's who of Kashmir politics in the wake of six-month long unrest in the region.

From Yashwant Sinha-led team to the latest visit of a delegation headed by former Union Minister Kamal Morarka, several non- governmental and informal groups are making a beeline to Srinagar in a "bid to calm the tempers" in Kashmir which witnessed more than 90 civilians during the unrest.

The non-official groups are making visits to Kashmir at a time when the Government of India is sitting on the recommendation seeking New Delhi- Kashmir dialogue. The All- Party delegation which visited Kashmir in the first week of September had made the recommendation.

Interestingly, the New Delhi- based non-official groups themselves seem to be in race of engaging Kashmiris, with one of them claiming that it was the "lone delegation to have interacted with students in Kashmir."

"This is the first time that students have interacted with any delegation to Kashmir from India.  So far no delegation had interacted with the students," a group claimed, in a handout earlier this week, after visiting Kashmir.

The similar trend was also witnessed post 2010 unrest when Congress-led Central Government, Left parties and even rightwing BhartiyaJanta Party came up with parallel initiatives on Kashmir.

While the Centre constituted a team of three interlocutors comprising journalist DileepPadgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Central Information Commissioner MM Ansari, to prepare a roadmap for resolution of the issue, the Left and other non- Congress and non- BJP set up  the "Committee for promotion of Dialogue with Jammu and Kashmir".

The BJP was not behind either. It constituted a parliamentary study group on Kashmir under the chairmanship of Rajnath Singh in 2010.

In the past two months, Kashmir is back on agenda of these groups which "disappear with restoration of normalcy and peace in the region".

First, a five-member delegation headed by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha arrived here in the last week of October to meet separatist groups and other players.

The group managed to meet some separatist leaders who had earlier refused to meet the All – Party delegation members. The committee made another trip to Kashmir earlier this month and even visited some districts of North and South Kashmir to meet people there.

Last month, a team from Centre for Policy Analysis- A left-leaning think tank- also made a similar trip to Kashmir.

Another such initiative to Kashmir was led by former Union Minister and Industrialist Kamala Morarka. Like Yashwant Sinha team, Morarka also managed to meet biggies of Kashmir politics.

Given track record of the previous such initiative, not much importance is given to these groups in Kashmir, with civil society members and political observers cynical about their outcome.

Senior lawyer, Zaffar Shah said, "We should not depend on outcome of these initiatives."

"Whereas we shouldn't discourage coming of these delegations to Kashmir, but we should not depend on their response," he added.

"While being hopeful, we should keep our fingers crossed."

Civil society activist, Syed ShakeelQalander said these initiatives have not yielded any result in the past. "We don't expect any breakthrough from these unofficial initiatives," he said, while demanding that Government of India should enter into dialogue with Kashmiris at official level. "Otherwise, this is blood tourism," he said.

Noted political commentator, DrGul Muhammad Wani said, "The fact is that our larger region is passing through very difficult times."

He however, said there are political and non-political formations in India who want to preserve the larger 'democracy project' in India and don't want Kashmir to get into irreversible hell.

Wani said some of these initiatives do have some official cover and Indian state does not want to completely ignore the LakashmanRekha on Kashmir.

"Indian state has yet to learn to engage Kashmiris without Pakistan and there is a learning curve. Will Indian state engage Kashmiris without Pakistan as Yashwant Sinha has also said remains to be seen?" he asked.

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