May 2000 News

Centre, Hurriyat talks under cloud

3 May 2000
Hindustan Times
Jay Raina

New Delhi: IN AN apparent clash of perceptions between the South and North Blocks, chances of an early Centre-Hurriyat Conference dialogue appears bleak. Highly-placed sources said the much-hyped initiative was being managed single-handedly by a select group of bureaucrats at the PMO-level . The Home Ministry that looks after Jammu and Kashmir through a separate Department of J&K Affairs is understood to be groping in the dark over the latest moves. Even as the PMO is reported to have made contact with a section of the Hurriyat leadership through some intermediaries, the Home Ministry is reportedly contemplating an all Party meeting of at least 12 J&K-centric political formations. The meeting is billed to review the prevailing situation in the State ''in continuation of a political process''. The Home Ministry move, according to sources, has been contemplated due to reservations from non-Hurriyat parties, Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference in particular, over PMO''s action in bestowing Hurriyat the hallow of the sole representative of Kashmiris. Significantly, the Home Ministry-sponsored conclave is expected to include representatives from All Buddhist Conference of Ladakh, various Kashmiri Pandit outfits such as Panun Kashmir and Kashmir Samiti, Shabir Shah''s Democratic Freedom Party, Mufti Mohd Sayeed''s Peoples'' Democratic Party, Jammu-based Dogra Manch besides the Congress, BJP and the BSP. Even though an invitation to the Hurriyat leaders for the proposed conclave is not presently ruled out, their participation appears bleak in the light of their known aversion to rub shoulders with, what they perceive, ''pro-India leaders'' of mainline political parties. Hurriyat sources said any kind of a dialogue could take place only after a serious offer was made by the Indian Government without pre-conditions. ''It will be deliberated and discussed thoroughly by the Hurriyat Conference''s General Body and Executive Committee,'' they said, adding that no such offer had yet been made. Sources said a section of J&K political leaders had reservations over the choice of the Centre''s so-called interlocutors as well. The octogenarian former Chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim suffering from ill health over the last few years has been totally out of touch with the political realities of the State for nearly 20 years, they said. Others are also not feeling elated over the reported choice of PN Dhar as an interlocutor. They recall the ouster of Dr Farooq Abdullah as J&K Chief Minister in the early eighties, engineered at the behest of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when Mr Dhar''s was her principal secretary. The sources also expressed surprise at the manner by which the PMO had handled such a delicate mission that was fraught with serious implications both for the country and the survival of Hurriyat as a credible organisation to talk peace with the Centre. ''The initiative should have been handled deftly leaving enough space for the Hurriyat leaders to manoeuvre their principal supporters in the Valley for such a dialogue,'' they said.


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