SRINAGAR: The newly appointed representative of New Delhi for Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma's first visit to the state has left the polity deeply divided here with the separatists refusing to talk unless “India accepts Kashmir as a dispute”.

Days after wounding up his visit to the state, Sharma has effectively managed to push back the opposition National Conference to cries of restoration of autonomy while the Hurriyat, which was “open to dialogue” earlier, is now asking nothing less than ‘Azadi'.

Advocating bifurcation of the state, NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah said Pakistan will “never let go” of the part of Kashmir it controls, “Pakistan-administered Kashmir will remain with them (Pakistan) and the part of Kashmir with India will remain India. The status quo will never change. Azadi is not an option,” the former union minister told reporters on Saturday.

Abdullah, who was supported by Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor, also said those seeking Azadi were misguided, “Peace will return only when New Delhi restores J&K's autonomy which is our right”.

On the other hand, separatists, who were under immense pressure after last year’s uprising to talk with New Delhi, have safely moved back on the option of dialogue with the former Intelligence Bureau chief who didn’t cut much ice during his five day visit to the state.

According to reports, a consensus was building in the Hurriyat that staying away from any meeting with Sharma, if he knocked their doors, would not send a good signal to the violence-wearied people who want an end to the daily specter of bloodshed in the Valley.

“There was a talk of getting Pakistan on board as the process moved ahead but the Enforcement Directorate notice to JKLF chief Yasin Malik may have served as the final nail in the coffin (of dialogue),” a source close to top Hurriyat leadership, said.

The hardening of stances got reflected in the rare Hurriyat seminar allowed by J&K government to mark the anniversary of Sir Mohammed Iqbal last week organised at the residence of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani which was also attended by Malik and Geelani’s close aide MA Sehrai.

“They failed to bend us by killings, injuries, blindings and arrests. Now they have started targeting families of Geelani sahab and Mirwaiz. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that by 2022, J&K will be Hurriyat-free, meaning there will be no movement here but we will not surrender,” Malik said.

“A creditable dialogue only happens in an atmosphere of mutual respect. New Delhi is trying to arm-twist the separatists but they will not want to be seen as succumbing to pressure with NIA raids under media limelight, even though they may want to participate in the peace process,” Prof Noor A Baba, a political scientist at Central University of Kashmir, said.