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JEHANGIR ALI | 5 SEPTEMBER, 2016

Positions Harden, Talks Remain Off the Anvil


SRINAGAR: The All-Party Delegation today wound up their visit to Kashmir with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh dodging questions on whether the Centre is examining the proposal of granting 'autonomy' to the state.

"Kashmir was, is and will remain an integral part of India," Rajnath said, signalling the hardening of postures on both sides.

The visibly distraught home minister told reporters in Srinagar that the Hurriyat's refusal to meet the delegation members goes against the ethos of 'Kashmiriyat' and 'Insaniyat', noting at the same time that the members had gone there in their 'personal capacity'.

"Everyone wants situation to normalise in Kashmir. Some delegates went to meet Hurriyat leaders yesterday. We neither agreed nor disagreed to their visit. But what they faced is neither Kashmiriyat nor Insaniyat," Singh said, ruling out any possibility of talks with Pakistan on Kashmir.

However, the home minister, who was flanked by Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS in Prime Minister's Office, and the Union home secretary, didn't answer questions on whether the Centre will hold unconditional dialogue with the Hurriyat on the Kashmir issue.

"We are willing to talk. Our doors are open for everyone. The CM had sent letters to Hurriyat. We have taken many suggestions into account. I don't want to go into the debate of who is saying what and to whom. The central government as well as the entire country is in pain because of what is happening in Kashmir," he said.

As the president of Peoples Democratic Party, and not as chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti has sent a letter to the Hurriyat leaders on Saturday, urging them to meet with the delegation members to resolve the prevailing crisis.

Hitting out at the Hurriyat, Rajnath said the amalgam of separatist groups doesn't believe in the institution of dialogue. "Under chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, the centre will extend every kind of support to bring normalcy," he said.

Before leaving for Jammu region of the state, the CPI(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury, who was also part of the delegation, said the Centre must hold an unconditional dialogue with the Hurriyat and other stakeholders to bring about a permanent solution to the prevailing crisis.

Talking to The Citizen, senior Hurriyat leader, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, said only a 'sustained dialogue' between India and Pakistan can be followed by any engagement of the Hurriyat with New Delhi or the Jammu and Kashmir government.

"I am sure Rajnath Singhji (sic) will take into consideration the changing realities of geopolitics in the region. Any dialogue is meaningless unless the two countries talk to each other," Prof Bhat said.

Besides the chief minister and Governor NN Vohra, the 26 parliamentary delegates from 20 political parties met with more than thirty delegations of political parties, civil society, university teachers and vice chancellors, fruit growers, students and "intellectuals", Rajnath said.

On the use of pellet guns against protesters, the home minister said he had promised an alternative during his visit on July 24, "A committee was set up which has come up with the alternative of PAVA shells which have been dispatched to the state authorities," he said.

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