Srinagar: The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as New Delhi’s ‘special representative’ to initiate fresh talks in Jammu and Kashmir has been viewed with skepticism – but also with interest by Kashmiri cartoonists. In Valley-based newspapers, they have sketched out their take on his chances, and on the irony of a former Intelligence Bureau chief being appointed as a Kashmir envoy.
Suhail Naqshbandi, a noted editorial cartoonist for the daily Greater Kashmir, has made several cartoons since the appointment, reflecting his doubts that the new envoy will have any success bringing the Hurriyat leadership on board for talks.
Naqshbandi says the Hurriyat’s refusal so far is understandable, given that the BJP dismissed any proposals for autonomy before the new envoy had even arrived for talks. “They are going to use it for their advantage,” he says. “They will say, look we tried talking, but they were not up for it.”
One of Naqshbandi’s cartoons in Greater Kashmir shows the envoy with mouth open but ears locked up, unable to listen. Another has Sharma walking the streets as a vendor, calling out, “Anyone for talks, dialogue?” In a third, a voice from the closed door of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) shouts “no” to the envoy waiting outside with his bag of ‘talks’.
Naqshbandi’s latest cartoon, published in Greater Kashmir last week, shows three-person delegation labelled ‘Aira, Ghaira, Nathukhaira’ outside the interlocutor’s door. “Meeting every Tom, Dick and Harry in the name of meeting delegations in Kashmir makes the charade of talks more evident,” he said. Some of these people, he had heard, met the interlocutor to get their roads paved, and others to demand jobs. “Sure, every person’s views are important, but it would make more sense to meet with people who have a standing and mandate here.”
In his cartoons, which are also popular on social media, Bashir Ahmad Bashir also illustrates the sense of futility around Sharma’s mission, especially after earlier interlocutors’ reports were ignored or rejected by New Delhi. In one cartoon, Modi sits in his office with three dustbins by his desk. The first is filled with a report by the late Dilip Padgaonkar, an earlier Kashmir interlocutor appointed by the UPA; the second with a more recent report submitted by a delegation led by Yashwant Sinha; the third dustbin is empty, waiting for anything forthcoming from Sharma.
The baggage of Sharma’s past work for the IB in Kashmir leaves people especially skeptical, said S. Tariq, a cartoonist for Kashmir Images. “Also no significant group or delegation met him on his first visit to the Valley, which shows the cold shoulder offered by the majority of people here.”
Earlier interlocutors were seen differently, Tariq said, as they visited the Valley in a group, usually led by a reputed political figure. One such figure appears in a recent cartoon, tossing Sharma the keys of a rundown vehicle, stripped of its tyres, and saying, “take it” as he heads out of the Valley.
Majid Maqbool is a journalist and editor based in Srinagar, Kashmir.