NEW DELHI: A 29 member parliamentary delegation is all set to leave for Srinagar tomorrow morning. Led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the delegation will spend a day and night in Srinagar, and on Monday return to Delhi via a 4 hour halt in Jammu.

In Srinagar Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in close coordination with the central government, is putting together an interaction with elected representatives of the Assembly followed by delegations from civil society arranged by the PDP.

Home Minister Singh met the MPs, who will be going in the delegation, today in New Delhi. He gave no assurance that the government will use the occasion to announce an end to the lethal pellet guns that have injured thousands of young Kashmiris, and blinded nearly 200. He also made it clear that the government would not facilitate any meetings with Hurriyat leaders for the Opposition MPs in the delegation. Most are currently in jail or under house arrest. The MPs have been informally told that no separatist leader will be willing to meet them.

There is some consternation in the Valley about the outcome of the visit. While most Kashmiris have turned away, looking in the opposite direction and not even willing to acknowledge the visit, many pointed out that the opposition was walking into what they described as a trap. In that the visit will give the government a chance to announce that it had fulfilled its promise and that the Kashmiris were not interested in opening any doors, or in dialogue. And as a senior academic said in a brief conversation with The Citizen, “then the government will go back to its propaganda that all Kashmiris are militants and there is no point in talks, as they are not interested in a dialogue.”

Significantly, the only political grouping that has taken an interest in moving Kashmiris out of the quagmire that has been created for them, is the Left so far. The two Communist parties will be represented by MPs Sitaram Yechury and D Raja in the parliamentary delegation. The CPI(M) has the added advantage of having a legislator Yousuf Tarigami in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, who has been taking an independent line and been in Delhi till recently meeting different groups to flag the crisis into which the Valley has been plunged.

There have been a round of closed door consultations, attended by several people from Kashmir in Delhi over the last few days. The Kashmiris have pointed out that no one of any consequence would be willing to meet the delegation. And urged the opposition parties to strike out, and take an independent position on the current crisis in the state.

Three points that are relevant have emerged from the different consultations that have been communicated to all political sections:

1, No one is willing to talk in the Valley now. If at all any progress is to be made the offer of talks should be made unconditional, and these should be expanded to include all stake holders in the Valley including the separatists and any or all youth leaders recognised;

2. The talks should begin on the note of autonomy as promised after independence.

3. The government must immediately announce the withdrawal of pellet guns and identify a series of confidence building measures that it can start implementing without delay; these must include not just compensation but also costs of full treatment of the injured youth, in hospitals in Kashmir and outside;

The asssessment made through several such meetings here was that the Kashmiris had lost all trust in the BJP and PDP. The current crisis had also marginalised the elected representatives of all parties in the Valley, with the legislators being compelled to stay indoors for fear for their lives. This was applicable to all legislators, and not just those of the ruling coalition. The Hurriyat too was being sidelined, and as several Kashmiris pointed out, the dangers inherent in this included the possibility that the separatists too would be sidelined by a movement that could then go completely out of hand. Several Kashmiris were of the view that it was imperative to strengthen the separatists at this point, instead of excluding them altogether and marginalising them, as “at least they are against violence, and have in the past ensured that the demonstrations remained within laid out parameters.”

It now remains to be seen whether the political parties visiting Kashmir with the government are able to set a new agenda altogether in their responses, or whether they will go along with the government itinerary for the two days without questions.

(Photo journalists beaten by police.
Photograph Basit Zargar)