Dineshwar Sharma's Kashmir visit starts on low-key note; Oppn parties, separatists, traders all give interlocutor a miss

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has reacted cautiously to the visit of the Centre's special representative for Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma, who reached the Valley on Monday to begin talks with political parties, social organisations and other opinion makers.

She took to Twitter on Monday to express hopes about the interlocutor's visit, saying the hope of resolution of the conflict via dialogue has been "rekindled" in Jammu and Kashmir.

Her remarks, however, were in stark contrast to those by National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who had said that he has "very little expectations" from Sharma's visit.

"I have very little expectations from this new interlocutor. Like it has been done before, he will come and meet people. In 2010, the then UPA government appointed a group of interlocutors who visited the state and had detailed discussions with every section here," he said.

 Dineshwar Sharmas Kashmir visit starts on low-key note; Oppn parties, separatists, traders all give interlocutor a miss

Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre's special interlocutor for Kashmir, arrived in Srinagar on Monday. PTI

Abdullah added that though the process took more than two months and a report was compiled, the government did not discuss it further.

"It has been thrown into a dustbin somewhere in the north block. It was followed by a delegation comprising of parliamentarians who visited Kashmir. What happened to that delegation and their recommendations? Nothing happened. So, I expect nothing to happen now as well," said the former chief minister.

No show by separatists, traders

The separatist leadership in the Valley, meanwhile, has refused to meet Sharma. Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that he was "unlikely" to meet with Sharma even if he did receive an invitation.

"We have cleared our position. How will the government, which is not ready to discuss autonomy, talk to us?" Farooq was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times. "In (the) earlier meeting with the Centre in 2002, the context was different — India and Pakistan were talking, all the stakeholders were involved. Today, there is no clarity on what they want. They are just wasting time. It seems to be no more than a PR exercise."

Earlier, sources at the separatist camp had told IANS that although separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani "does not oppose a dialogue process, he is not ready to facilitate a process that is aimed at delaying rather than resolving the basic issue".

The joint resistance leadership (JRL), an umbrella of separatist leaders including Geelani, Yasin Malik and Farooq, had also dismissed any possibility of a dialogue with the interlocutor.

Kashmir's apex trade body, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), also turned down the interlocutor's invitations for talks.

"The organisation decided to boycott the meeting, as reports from previous interlocutors yielded no results. We were invited by the Divisional Commissioner but we are not meeting," KCCI president Javed Tenga was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.

With the main Opposition political party, separatists and the traders' body all refusing to meet Sharma, his first day in Srinagar was taken up by fringe organisations and groups claiming to represent local communities.

A report on The Hindu quoted a "man representing youth from border areas" as having received an audience with Sharma. He requested the new interlocutor to stop the use of pellet guns against civilians.

"If they want to win our confidence, the use of pellet guns should stop. Also, cases against young people should be withdrawn. The Centre has to assure us first," he said.

Yasin Poswal, the general secretary of the Gujjar Bakkarwal community that has been demanding political reservation, also met Sharma on Monday. "We met Minister of Home Rajnath Singh when he came here last time (in September). We placed our demands then, and today apprised the special representative of the same. He was more receptive to our demand than the home minister," Poswal said.

Speaking to the media ahead of his visit to the Valley, Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau director, had said that no one should jump to conclusions before the process of talks with various stakeholders in Kashmir began.

"I would like to be judged by my actions," he told PTI.

Describing his work as a "serious effort", Sharma also said that "one should refrain from fishing in the desert", adding, "I am going there to be with my people and understand their pain and suffering and find a suitable remedy to their problems."

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Nov 07, 2017 10:04:01 IST