Sharma To Begin Talks Tomorrow, Kashmir Sceptical
JEHANGIR ALI reports from Srinagar on the Kashmir talks that are set to begin tomorrow.
SRINAGAR: The Centre's new interlocutor and former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma is expected to arrive in Kashmir tomorrow amid a fresh of violence that has left a political activist, two Army soldiers and a policeman dead in last week.
Sharma, who was in the Valley as the head of the Intelligence Bureau when Hizb commander Burhan Wani was killed last year, throwing the region into chaos, is, according to officials, expected to meet various political and civil society delegations during his stay in Kashmir.
The visit will come amid a renewed phase of violence and the ‘prolonged’ crackdown on the Hurriyat with even the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti calling for an end to the raids by the National Investigations Agency that are seen here as an attempt of 'last resort' by BJP-led Centre to get the separatists to talk to Sharma.
The powerful Hurriyat trio of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have announced that they will not participate in any dialogue process unless Pakistan is not involved. Malik has been served summons by the Enforcement Directorate last week which he termed as “attempt to muzzle the voice of Kashmiris”.
In a statement earlier this week, a prominent civil society delegation, while flagging Sharma's appointment, said New Delhi must acknowledge the “political problem” in Kashmir, “The dialogue must take place among the three principal parties viz India, Pakistan and the Joint Resistance Leadership of Kashmir. That alone can yield desired results,” a statement by Joint Civil Society, said.
People in Kashmir are not reposing much faith or trust in Sharma’s appointment by New Delhi which has a history of making such announcements in past as a “time buying exercise”, only to shelve the recommendations made, for example, by interlocutors and in reports of PM's Working Groups.
“Such announcements and appointments have been made in past also but there has been no change in the situation which has only gone from bad to worse. I don’t think the new interlocutor will be able to make much difference,” Zakir Maqbool, a media student of Islamic University of Kashmir, said.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party, which is in a highly unpopular alliance with the BJP in J&K, is banking on Sharma’s appointment to break the political deadlock in Kashmir and has appealed the Hurriyat to meet the new representative of New Delhi.
Mehbooba Mufti , who is under immense pressure to deliver on the promises made by her party in the 'Agenda of the Alliance' with the BJP, said Sharma, who has been given Z category security by the state government, will “steer the process” of dialogue to a “substantive conclusion”.
“Such an engagement by the Centre has properly been formalised at the highest level. With an illustrious and unblemished track record at his back, Dineshwar Sharma would be able to steer ahead the process to a substantive conclusion. Also, it is all the more important to include all those people in the dialogue process whose ideas about the State are different from ours,” she said.