Even as the Narendra Modi government has articulated its intent to address the festering Kashmir issue — both houses of Parliament have seen a substantive debate on this — the Hurriyat Conference has indicated its willingness for a dialogue with the Centre but with the caveat that meaningful talks can only be held at the highest political level.
“It is better to have a dialogue at the level of the home minister and prime minister, like we did during (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s time,” Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told Kashmir Post.
When asked why the separatists were not talking to Dineshwar Sharma, the interlocutor appointed by the NDA government, the Mirwaiz said his mandate was not clear and that political talks would be more meaningful than a dialogue at the bureaucratic level. Sharma is former director of the Intelligence Bureau. The Vajpayee government had made headlines for several rounds of talks with the Hurriyat Conference in 2004, when it even granted leaders of the separatist group passports and signalled that they could simultaneously hold talks with the Pakistani establishment.
“Vajpayee realised that the Kashmir problem needs a peaceful, political engagement. Narendra Modi has won a strong mandate and he should hold talks within the ambit of humanity,” Mirwaiz said, referring to Vajpayee’s offer of looking at Jammu and Kashmir through the prism of “Kashmiriyat, jhamooriyat and insaniyaat.”
Interestingly, home minister Amit Shah said earlier this week that the current government’s Kashmir policy would be guided by these three aspects. Sharma, the government’s interlocutor, has been trying to meet the senior leadership of the Hurriyat since his appointment but has only managed to meet one of its leaders, Abdul Ghani Bhat. The separatists have had no structured dialogue with him.
The possibility of a dialogue was revived after state governor, Satya Pal Malik, at a function in Srinagar last week said that the Hurriyat Conference was willing to have a dialogue. Malik’s comments assumed significance because he spoke in front of two NDA ministers: Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar and Minister of State in the PMO, Jitendra Singh.
Though the Governor and the Mirwaiz have both spoken about a dialogue, it is not clear if New Delhi will initiate talks with the separatists. The Mirwaiz maintains that only a political approach will work and not an “iron fist, muscular policy”, but home minister Amit Shah, who recently visited the state, gave no indication of a likely peace process. The Hurriyat Conference, however, is ready for a “meaningful” political process. “Modi must seize the opportunity. Why should we only firefight? We should hold talks during times of relative peace,” the Mirwaiz said.