May 2000 News

Delhi tries to reach out, touch Kashmir

2 May 2000
Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: These may be straws in the wind but the signals are unmistakable: as the mercury rises in the Valley, New Delhi appears interested in Kashmir. This acquires significance since it comes at a time when Pakistan is under increasing international pressure - last weekend, the US State Department called it a ''hub'' of terrorism. Close on the heels of Union Defence Minister Geroge Fernandes''s meeting with former Chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim recently, former Union Minister and BJP national secretary Mukhtar Abass Naqvi was here to ''assess the mood.'' Thought Naqvi claimed his four-day visit to the valley was essentially a private tour - he went around without any security cover - he told The Indian Express that he would submit a detailed report to the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister on the situation here. ''I feel the political approach towards Kashmir needs to be changed. There is a need for honesty an transparency ,'' Naqvi said. Naqvi, who concluded his tour today, said fear and insecurity had gripped Kashmiris. ''We need to win back the shattered confidence of the people. We need to inculcate a sense of equality among Kashmiris so that they do not feel discriminated against,'' Naqvi said. He said that though there was no purpose in the talks with Pakistan at this juncture, there was a need for meaningful dialogue at the domestic level to resolve the problem. ''Pakistan''s approach is in no way right. They are bent upon giving boost to militancy here because of their domestic political compulsions; thus any dialogue with them is futile,'' he said. ''However, there is aneed to address the grievances of the people here.'' ''I deliberately avoided security and it did help,'' he said. ''I had a good interaction with common Kashmiri, be it in the shrine of Makhdoom Sahib or Dargah Hazratbal or those I met on the street. I felt that the masses were not happpy with the Farooq Abdullah Government.'' He claimed there was a lot of political exploitation of the situation created by militancy. ''There are many people who want to take political mileage out of this situation. In fact, they even define terrorism to suit their politics,'' he said. Meanwhile, former chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim seems ready to repeat his mediatory role. It was former Sadar-e-Riyasat and Congress leader Karan Singh who stressed upon a need to involve Qasim, a seasoned politician who earlier helped reach a landmark accord between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975, thus putting an end to the Sheikh''s two-decade long agitation for a plebiscite. And now, Fernandes accompained by Farooq called on Qasim. Though Qasim says it was nothing more than a courtesy call, he does admit they had an hour-long discussion on how to initiate a preace process. ''I told them I am ready if my services are required at any juncture to end the bloodshed and sufferings of Kashmiris,'' he said. ''But I do not see any Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah among the leadership of today. It is a fractured representation and we need to involve more than 20 leaders in any such process.'' Qasim is of the opinion that first there should be dialogue between the leaders of all the divergent political shades within Kashmir. He denied any talks with the Hurriyat leadership on the issue and said the only separatist leader who has been in touch with him is Abdul Gani Lone. Qasim claimed that though he has a solution in the mind, it won''t be fair to divulge that plan at this point.''


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