Kashmir: Hurriyat & civil society refuse to meet all-party delegation
On Sunday afternoon, three members of the visiting all-party delegation from New Delhi turned up at the residence of Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar's Hyderpora locality. But, much to the dismay of senior Parliamentarians Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and Sharad Yadav, no one opened the gate.
They waited for 10 minutes outside the gate, a green-coloured sheet of iron offset by some grill work. Some of their companions even knocked at it. But nobody answered. More knocks, deeper silence.
Finally, the leaders turned away, only to find a small gathering of people who started shouting pro-Azadi slogans, which followed them until they were out of sight.
The same leaders then went to meet Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front supremo Yasin Malik, who is being held at Humhama Police Station. But after the exchange of pleasantries, Malik, too, declined to talk to them.
Similarly, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of another faction of the Hurriyat Conference, turned back Asaduddin Owaisi when the latter went to meet him in jail at Chashma Shahi.
Speaking to the media later on, Janata Dal (United) leader Yadav said Malik had told them that "he would meet them in their office in New Delhi in the future".
Yadav added: "It is not a snub for us. When you are doing things for your country, you have to think beyond slights and snubs."
Mehbooba's invite to no avail
On Saturday, it was clear that the delegation would face a boycott in the Valley, after the Centre chose not to invite the Hurriyat despite the pressure from Opposition leaders to do so.
Also read- All-party delegation visit faces sweeping boycott in Kashmir
Then, in a last ditch effort to get the separatists to engage with the visiting delegation, led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had written a formal invitation letter to Hurriyat leaders.
"I write to you in my capacity as president of the J&K Peoples Democratic Party and request you to take the lead and engage with the all-party Delegation of Parliamentarians visiting the state tomorrow. This will be the start of a credible and meaningful political dialogue and resolution process to end the stalemate," Mehbooba wrote.
"To convert our conviction and commitment of a peaceful and prosperous J&K into reality, it is important that you share your thoughts and beliefs with this distinguished group who represent the people of India, and not only the Government of India".
However, the invite was contemptuously rejected by the newly-unified separatist leadership, led chiefly by Geelani.
"Everyone knows that people have been shouting Azadi on the roads for those who want to listen and writing on walls and placards for those who can see", a joint statement from the leaders read. "These deceitful methods of crisis management through Parliamentary delegations and Track-II only prolong the sufferings of the people and can't take the place of a genuine transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue of the Peoples' right to self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir."
The Hurriyat had also raised questions about the mandate of the delegation. "One fails to understand what hope to attach with a delegation which has neither spelled out its mandate for any engagement nor has a clear agenda," the statement read.
For the Hurriyat, Mehbooba's invite was also a downgrade of sorts. This is the first time in the past two decades that instead of the Union government, an invite to the separatists had been extended by a state Chief Minister, somebody they see as a 'puppet' in the hands of New Delhi.
Only mainstream parties engage
With the separatists declining to meet, the all-party visit has virtually come to nought. On the urging of Geelani, all prominent trading and civil society organisations decided to boycott the visiting delegation. This limited the delegation's Kashmir interactions to mainstream leaders.
Earlier, on its arrival, the delegation met Mehbooba. She stressed the need for creating an institutionalised mechanism for dialogue and resolution of the Kashmir issue.
"The need of the hour is to revive the reconciliation and resolution process through an institutionalised mechanism involving all the stakeholders," she said, and added that the challenge before the leadership of the state and the country was to insulate the process from the setbacks that have derailed it in the past.
The state's finance minister, Haseeb Drabu, gave the delegation a detailed presentation regarding the political, economic and developmental challenges confronting J&K, and a possible road map on "how to pull the state out of the morass".
The main opposition National Conference, in its meeting with the delegation, submitted a memorandum which made a case for 'a credible, meaningful political process'.
"Historically, the genesis of the political issue in Kashmir lies in the erosion of the state's internal autonomy and a number of broken promises that violated good-faith agreements between the leadership of the state and successive Central governments in New Delhi," an excerpt from the memorandum read.
"A sustained and meaningful dialogue with the separatist leadership in the state is imperative. New Delhi should also engage with the mainstream political parties in the state and continue to take them on board in an evolutionary mechanism to find a lasting political solution."
Violence continues unabated
Meanwhile, the mass protests and the consequent violence continued unabated in Kashmir. In southern Kashmir's Shopian, more than a hundred people were injured when security personnel tried to foil a pro-Azadi rally. Later, the protesters set ablaze the newly-inaugurted building of the Deputy Commissioner's office in the town.
Two people were hit by pellets at Aripanthan village, which falls in former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's constituency of Beerwah.
Amid the clashes, a group of youth hurled rocks at the house of PDP legislator Mushtaq Ahmed Shah in Tral, the native district of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. However, the security personnel deployed there fired several tear-gas canisters to disperse the youth.
Later in the same town, 60 people were injured when security forces fired pellets and teargas shells inside the shrine of Shah-e-Hamadan, where people had gathered to organise a pro-Azadi rally.
Clashes erupted in the Vessu village of Qazigund in southern Kashmir's Anantnag district after the funeral prayers of Basit Ahangar, who died of multiple pellet injuries and a head wound on Saturday evening.
More than 20 persons were injured after security forces tried to foil a protest rally at Ashmuji village in Kulgam district. Clashes also erupted in north Kashmir's Bandipora, with youth and police personnel fighting pitched battles for hours.
In Srinagar, two photojournalists were hit by pellets while covering an event in the Naidyar area of Rainawari. They have been identified as Zuhaib Maqbool and Muzamil Mattoo.
At SMHS hospital, in a unique protest, the victims of pellet guns admitted to ward 7 and 8 staged a sit-in, demanding freedom from India. They were holding placards, with messages like "Jab tak na hogi rai shumari, jung humari jari hai (Until the plebiscite is held, our war is on), "Go India Go Back" and "We want freedom".
According to a police statement, 10 incidents of stone-pelting were reported from Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian, Awantipora and Sopore.
"At these places, crowds assembled on the roads and attempted to disturb the normal traffic and movement of people by pelting stones on vehicles, and later on, at police and security force deployments," the statement said.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
More in Catch
Kashmir: why Hurriyat may not agree to talks even if Modi govt does
All party meet on Kashmir: all fury and confusion signifying nothing
All-party delegation to Kashmir has not spelled out mandate, allege Geelani, other separatists