Hurriyat-India talks hang in the balance
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: The fate of talks between the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference and the Indian government hangs in balance as many Kashmiri leaders want to review the decision. The moderate leadership is feeling marginalised after hard-line leader Syed Ali Geelani formed his own political party with the backing of his parent organisation Jamaat-e-Islami and other militant leaders.
“The new Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi has spoiled the chances for moderates. They have been left in the lurch with the government making no progress to end the sufferings of common people in Kashmir,” sources told Daily Times. “Since this government came to power, it has stopped the release of prisoners which was a routine,” says a top Hurriyat activist. He lamented that the screening committee of central and state officials, which used to meet often under the Vajpayee government to recommend the release of prisoners had not met since the new government assumed office.
The new government has also rejected the moderates’ demand that they would start negotiations with an appropriate political authority and not with Home Minister Shivraj Patil. They want to talk with someone in a position like that of former deputy prime minister Lal Krishn Advani’s in the present government. The Kashmiris had two round rounds of talks with Mr Advani. Home Minister Patil on Sunday made the resumption of dialogue a remote possibility by stating that his government would resume talks with Hurriyat under the Indian Constitution. The past government had desisted using the term ‘Indian Constitution’. Former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee while inviting the Hurriayt leaders for talks had stated that the negotiations would be held within the framework of ‘insaniyat’ (humanity).
“The centre does not have any rigid stand on talks with separatist groups and would talk to the Hurriyat Conference with an open mind. There would be no conditions in talks with Hurriyat except that I will be talking within the four walls of the Constitution, “ the Press Trust of India quoted Mr Patil as saying.
The moderate faction of Hurriyat wants that talks with India should be discussed again by its executive council after the party unites on the issue. “The third round of talks with New Delhi can wait but our unity effort cannot. And if the executive council is restored, this issue needs ratification from the new members,” a senior Kshmiri leader told Daily Times.
Moderates say that if the talks issue is racked up at this juncture it would jeopardise the unity effort. “Most leaders whom we are trying to engage have some reservations on the peace process. Their suggestions need to be taken into account,” said another moderate leader. With Mr Geelani in the driving seat and the Jamaat joining his new party, the moderates have now started trying to woo the neutral leaders. Even the moderates are ready to amend the Hurriyat constitution to accommodate the Shabir Shah-led Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) and Fazal Haq Qureshi into the executive council.
“We are ready to amend the constitution if the need arises. But we want to restore the executive council first,” said a senior moderate leader. The Hurriyat has set a 15-day timeframe to unite. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been asked to speed up efforts and talk to all parties including the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, the People’s League and the DFP and others.