May 2000 News

Mufti is sure Hurriyat talks will bear fruit

10 May 2000
Asian Age

Srinagar: Former Union home minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, is optimistic about the outcome of the Centre’s initiative to hold peace talks with the Kashmiri secessionists, saying that the two sides would break the stalemate. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, Mr Sayeed said that the BJP’s perception on Kashmir had changed and it is now ready to do all that is necessary to stem increasing alienation of the locals. “They have given up their hawkish attitude after realising that the bullet-for-bullet policy has proved counterproductive. Adva-niji’s pro-active approach only increased alienation of Kashmiri people and the militancy which was confined to the Valley spread to Poonch and Rajouri districts,” he said. On the other hand, he said, the Farooq government’s dismal performance, growing corruption and nepotism also contributed to public disaffection. “People had participated in September 1996 elections despite the militants’ threat and voted Farooq Abdullah to power but he could not live up to their expectations and peace also remained elusive,” he added. Mr Sayeed, who is the leader of Opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party said that the change in the Centre’s attitude was not a fluke. “I know for certain that they have changed,” he said, adding: “After getting inputs about the ground situation in the state they have realised that what is needed is to befriend the people and not to use the stick any more.” He dispelled the suggestion that New Delhi was only pretending to be in favour of holding peace talks with the Kashmiri leadership in order to pervert the world opinion or ward off the pressure from the West. “It is only the ground situation which has compelled them to give up rigidity and start a dialogue,” he reiterated. He said the Centre’s new approach only vindicated the stand his PDP had taken on the issue since its inception last year. Replying questions, Mr Sayeed insisted that the Centre’s initiative is “very serious.” He described home minister L.K. Advani’s assertion that the talks could be held only within framework of the Indian Constitution and the Hurriyat Conference’s hardened outward stance that it would not participate unless Pakistan is involved only as “public posturing.” He said the Centre and the Hurriyat were in contact with each other. Mr Sayeed said that Islamabad was interested in resolving the issue peacefully and significantly Gen. Pervez Musharraf had said categorically that his country will have no objection to New Delhi’s rapprochement talks with the Hurriyat Conference. “Both New Delhi and Islamabad want to demolish the wall of hatred and mistrust. Neither wants further confrontation because of its fallout on their economies,” Mr Sayeed said. He said that within Jammu and Kashmir, people wanted peace with dignity. “Until recently the perception in New Delhi was that a time will come when the people of Kashmir will raise a white flag. That has not happened and will not happen, the realisation that has forced those at the helm to change their attitude,” he said. Mr Sayeed said that the Hurriyat Conference’s response to the Centre’s initiative had been for obvious reasons low key. When asked will militants allow the initiative for peace to thrive, he said that once the process of reconciliation had started, people would develop a vested interest in it and it was when the militants would also accept the logic. The former Union home minister did not see any wrong in involving other ethnic and regional groups in the proposed peace talks but said since the Hurriyat had emerged as the main representative body of the secessionists, he was keen to see the amalgam was given the respect it deserved. He refused to react to the suggestion that Jammu and Kashmir could well be divided on ethnic grounds, an option available to resolve the dispute once for all.


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