Centre for talks in J&K during winter calm

With violence levels and mob protests in Kashmir likely to ebb in winter months, the Centre is keen to use a period of relative calm to focus on the dialogue process and work on framing an actionable agenda that will help win hearts and maintain peace.
The government’s representative for the Jammu and Kashmir dialogue Dineshwar Sharma, who just wound up what officials here described as a “successful” maiden visit to the state, is likely to engage with more sections of the people by visiting the state at least once or twice a month.
According to sources, based on feedback from the interlocutor, the Centre plans to identify the tangible demands of the people of J&K and work towards addressing them as a confidence-building measure. “A sustained peace period in the Kashmir valley is needed to win faith of the people. While terrorists can continue to be tackled in security operations, mob violence and popular protests must be contained to ensure sustained peace in the valley,” said a home ministry official.
The dialogue is a step in that direction as it involves hearing problems of people and finding solutions that would inspire their confidence and keep youth off the streets. This will help restore tourism, leading to more economic activity and creation of jobs for the Kashmiri youth.
Meanwhile, coinciding with the recent Durbar shift to winter capital of Jammu, home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday chaired a highlevel meeting here to take a security review of the state and discuss counter strategies for the coming months.
The core group meeting, attended by national security adviser, defence minister and top officials of defence ministry, Army, Central para-military forces, intelligence agencies and NIA, is said to have agreed on the need to sustain the intelligence-based counter-terror operations, while ensuring minimal collateral effect on civilians, said a home ministry source.
Sources said the political establishment at the Centre is also keen that the J&K government hold panchayat polls in the state.
An officer indicated that home minister Rajnath Singh is in touch with J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on the issue of panchayat polls, which were due in mid-2017.
However, the security situation would have to be considered before taking a final decision. “While a section believes panchayat polls would help in devolution of funds, the situation has to be conducive to ensure security of candidates and good voter turnout. If there is large-scale violence by terrorists, including targeting of candidates, it will give rise to an atmosphere of fear and lead to poor participation of voters. This may create an impression that things in Valley have again gone out of hand. So the timing of the panchayat polls has to be right,” said an officer.
Incidentally, some delegations who met Sharma during his visit to J&K last week, are believed to have raised objection to the recent amendment to J&K Panchayati Raj Act, providing for indirect election of the sarpanch.
Sharma’s J&K visit saw many delegations turn up to engage with him despite the call given by separatist groups like Hurriyat not to join the dialogue. This, said a home ministry official, shows that the people of J&K want peace.
Incidentally, the representative is said to have not only patiently heard the delegations till almost 10.30 pm each day, but he also took notes on his own as people spoke. This is said to have encouraged people to be more forthcoming in airing their opinion, said a home ministry officer.