Back from Kashmir, Delegation Members to Engage Centre in Plainspeak

Keeping promises – and not repeating slogans and rhetoric – holds key to winning confidence of state's people, Opposition MPs to tell Modi government on Wednesday.

New Delhi: It was in Katra this April that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first invoked the slogan of “Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat” given by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a means of addressing the problems of the people of Kashmir. Recently, he also coined his own term “vikas (development) and vishwas (trust)” as a means of winning over the people of the state.

But as the 26-member all-party delegation returned from the state without managing to hold substantive talks with the separatists, some of the members of this group are expected to tell the Centre on Wednesday in no uncertain terms that mere words and rhetoric won’t do, and that what is needed is fulfilment of the promises made to the people of the state in the past if the idea is to win back their confidence.

“There is a serious trust deficit in the state,” senior Communist Party of India leader D. Raja told The Wire. He said people the delegation members met asked “what is the point of another meeting when the promises made in the past have not been kept”.

Elaborating on the issue, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, said: “The prime minister is talking about “vishwas” but [trust] cannot be created from thin air. The UPA government had set up working groups which had given a lot of recommendations on how to deal with the issues in Kashmir and also about the whole problem. Then UPA II had also appointed a group of interlocutors who gave a very detailed report and also gave recommendations on what needs to be done. But none of these have been considered. So how can we create any confidence?”

Yechury had along with Raja, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) and CPI(M) MLA Yousuf Tarigami, met several separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabbir Shah and Abdul Gani Bhat, and also made a vain attempt to meet  Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who turned them away. In Srinagar too, Yechury had spoken about the need to restore confidence.

Back in New Delhi, he repeated his demand for fulfilling those promises. “People of Kashmir say in the past too delegations came, you set up your committees, they gave recommendations and still you have not done anything so far.” Admitting that this indeed was a “betrayal”, he said, “unless you start addressing those issues in right earnest then you cannot generate any confidence.”

The Communist leader said that apart from going through the recommendations of the group of interlocutors, the government also needed to look at  the recommendations of the working groups. “One of them was headed by Hamid Ansari, who is now the vice-president. They have given a lot of recommendations – on Article 370, how that was ignored in the past – all those issues are there, they are all on paper, they are all there in government files. I had even displayed them in Parliament during the debate,” he said, lamenting the absence of a serious approach by the government to the entire issue.

Soon after violence had erupted in Kashmir on July 8 following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, The Wire had reported how members of the J&K interlocutors group believed that the situation in the Valley would have been better had the suggestions and recommendations made by them and the working groups been sincerely adhered to by the Centre.

The group comprising journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari, had among other things called for implementing specific youth and employment-related programmes, setting into motion the common minimum programme, reducing the army’s visibility, urgently addressing human rights violations, reviewing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, which gives the forces  extensive powers without corresponding accountability, and lifting the Disturbed Areas Act.

With the Centre having called a meeting with members  of the all-party delegation on Wednesday, Yechury and others are likely to raise the issue of dusting and revisiting the files containing past recommendations, which may hold the key to the current impasse.

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