Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is all set to lead an all-party delegation to Kashmir on Sunday, a development that reprises one of a similar unsuccessful initiative in 2010.
In 2010, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ramvilas Paswan and some other leaders from Delhi had visited Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. seeking an end to the three month-long clashes between security forces and stone-pelters that had claimed more than 50 civilian lives.
Two separate teams had visited separatists Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik at their respective residences. Geelani was blunt and forthright in his interaction, reiterating his traditional line on the state which seeks a formal acknowledgement of the disputed nature of Kashmir as a pre-requisite for the engagement with the Centre.
Meanwhile, Mirwaiz and Malik came up with a proposal for the establishment of Kashmir committees by India and Pakistan, which will hold dialogue with ‘genuine’ Kashmiri representatives to find an acceptable solution.
However later, recommendations made by the delegation were junked by the Centre, much like the report of the three-member group of interlocutors led by the noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar.
Six years later, the BJP-led Central government is packing off another set of an all-party delegation to the restive state.
Though Rajnath Singh has said that members of the delegation were free to meet anybody, including separatists, Geelani has decided not to meet them. Mirwaiz and Malik are in jail, the former lodged at Chashma Shahi sub jail on the outskirts of Srinagar, and Malik shifted to Srinagar Central Jail.
“We believe that even after deadly conflicts and destructive wars, things are settled only through dialogue. But given the long and deceptive nature of the talks on Kashmir, we have witnessed this exercise more than 150 times without yielding any results till date,” Geelani said in a statement. “We cannot demonise the sanctity of this grave issue by participating in a photo session or meeting for a cup of tea”.
Already Geelani has set four conditions for the dialogue. These include accepting the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir, announcing the acceptance of the people’s right to self determination, announcing rapid demilitarization process of population centres and repealing laws like the AFSPA and the Public Safety Act.
However, like 2010, members of the delegation are likely to call on Geelani at his home and find a way to meet Mirwaiz and Malik too.
Though billed as a major political initiative to address the current crisis, the visit is unlikely to achieve much. The BJP, in keeping with its political stance on Kashmir, has stayed well short of promising a movement towards some kind of a political solution. The visit will be more about the assessment of the ground situation in Valley.
“The visit of the all-party delegation is a good initiative. If pursued with a sincerity of purpose, it can lead to a national political consensus in the form of a minimum solution to Kashmir,” said Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist, adding that the members of the delegation should go and visit the separatist leaders. “What will eventually matter is not the conditions set by Geelani or the other separatists, but the Centre’s seriousness about any initiative being undertaken and the will to pursue it to an acceptable solution,” he said.