SRINAGAR: Veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has told a delegation from New Delhi that all the political prisoners held in the last four months of agitation should be released before any dialogue could be initiated, sources said.

In a meeting yesterday, which lasted for nearly two hours, with the delegation led by former union minister and BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, Geelani, who has been under house arrest for "six years", said the "duplicity" in New Delhi's approach towards Kashmir issue breeds cynicism towards any dialogue process.

"On one hand, New Delhi talks about Kashmir being an integral part of India while on the other hand you are telling us that the dialogue will be unconditional. This duplicity breeds cynicism which will not lead to any fruitful dialogue," Geelani told the delegation, according to sources.

Although the delegation has made it clear that they are meeting the separatist leadership in a "personal capacity", they have also implied that New Delhi was willing to start a dialogue for "permanent resolution" of the Kashmir problem.

Following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani, authorities in Kashmir have arrested nearly 8000 people, mostly youths, to prevent freedom protests that have swept the valley, resulting in the killing of at least 94 civilians in retaliatory action by government forces.

Geelani has sought release of all the prisoners, including the Hurriyat leaders and activists held during the prevailing crisis, so that "we can hold consultations with each other to chalk out the future course of action regarding any engagement with New Delhi", sources said.

Moderate Hurriyat chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who also met the delegation yesterday, said the people of Kashmir have "scored a moral victory over New Delhi" after the delegation members urged them to engage in a dialogue with the Centre.

"At this juncture, the Hurriyat leadership is united. The government must stop arrests, release people from jails, lift curbs and allow resistance leadership to meet people. We will talk to every section of society and come out with a roadmap for any kind of engagement," Mirwaiz told reporters at his residence after meeting the delegation.

While the JKLF chief Yasin Malik, who is undergoing treatment at SKIMS hospital in Srinagar, refused to meet the delegation, the members did meet senior Hurriyat leaders Shabir Shah and Zafar Akbar Bhat.

The delegation, comprising of former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, CDR chief, Sushobha Bharve, journalist, Bharat Bhushan among others are scheduled to meet the J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti later in the day today.

(Cover Photograph Basit Zargar)