Former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma, who was appointed the new interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, has faced a tough initiation into office after Kashmiri separatists reportedly refused to talk to him.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising senior separatist leaders, rejected any possibility of engaging in parleys with Sharma. The statement was issued by JRL leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik. “To be part of this so-called dialogue process would be a futile exercise for any Kashmiri since this new tactic has been adopted by the Indian government after its failure to crush the aspirations of the freedom loving people through military repression,” they said.
The statement added, “In principle, we have always advocated and supported sincere and productive dialogue as a means to resolve the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Our stand on dialogue requires the basic acknowledgement that there is a dispute that has to be resolved. The Indian government has continuously refused to accept this basic premise and the reality on the ground.”
It had earlier been reported that the separatists were tight-lipped on the issue and refused to give their viewpoint on Sharma’s appointment. Furthermore, it was also not clear whether Sharma himself would talk to the separatists.
The national dailies had been upbeat about Sharma’s appointment. Hindustan Times had said that Sharma’s stint as interlocutor could help build on the gains achieved in recent times and saw it as a positive step. Noting that votaries of dialogue had for long sought a blend of military and political approach to the Kashmir imbroglio, it had said that the move “half-meets” the call but was well-timed.
The Hindu had welcomed his appointment and said that the dialogue must be as broad-based as possible. It had also warned that if the move was to be more than a headline-management exercise, the Central and state governments must rein in the hardliners to enable a genuinely conciliatory environment.
A Firstpostarticle had also argued that engaging the Hurriyat leadership would be a major hurdle for Sharma. It had pointed out that the Centre had failed to implement the recommendations of the report submitted by three interlocutors on Kashmir — late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari — though they had sought to stop the constitutional erosion of the state.
In their report, the interlocutors asked the government to look into the need for revoking of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). However, after the 2016 agitation, many youths were booked under PSA, while central government forces have taken recourse to AFSPA to oppose any civil trial of the force personnel involved in human rights violations.
Ansari said that the PDP-BJP government has failed in Kashmir. “The PDP-BJP government has realised that the use of brute force has not worked in Kashmir. Not only have attacks on PDP MLAs taken place, but surgical strikes have also not been able to restore peace along the borders,”’ said the former interlocutor.
Newsclick had pointed out that while all pro-Indian “mainstream” parties accept the legitimacy of India administering Kashmir, the meaningful “talks” will yield results only if it happens between conflicting parties. These include the Hurriyat Conference which believes in the resolution of Kashmir dispute through “peaceful and non-violent-means” has posed a challenge to status-quo over the years, and other militant outfits who believe in using violent means and categorically term Indian rule in Kashmir as “illegitimate”.
Ansari had also criticised Sharma’s appointment in this Firstpost article where he had written that the appointment of an IPS officer shows that the government still thinks about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through the prism of national security and intelligence. But the fact is that the problem can only be solved politically.
After the Hurriyat’s refusal from talking to Sharma, it is clear that his impact will be seriously diminished in the region. It is clearly easy to talk to parties which agree with the government’s stance. However Sharma’s real challenge was to talk to those who hold differing views. Unfortunately, it seems like he won’t even get a chance to take up that challenge.
With inputs from IANS