June 2000 News

Delhi must hold talks with Hurriyat: Shankaracharya

29 June 2000
The Asian Age
Bishwanath Ghosh

New Delhi: Jagatguru Adhokshjanand Teerth, the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth, who was recently in Kashmir for talks with Hurriyat leaders, on Thursday said the ball was now in the Centre’s court to initiate the peace process in the Valley. “They (the Hurriyat) is ready. Unless the Centre takes a rigid stand, the talks can begin immediately and peace can return,” the Shankaracharya told The Asian Age on Thursday. He and Mr N.K. Sharma, who had served as political secretary to former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, were in the Valley earlier this week to talk to the Hurriyat leaders and gauge their mood. There, they met Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik, Abdul Ghani Lone, Maulana Abbasi and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq. “Our efforts will go on till Kashmir is completely peaceful. Problems like Kashmir can be solved at the spiritual level. But this problem also has a political colour, and since I am only a spiritual leader, I have asked Mr Sharma to handle the political side of it,” the Shankaracharya said. When asked about the nature of his talks with the Hurriyat leaders, he said: “Well, I talked about spiritual things, like the soul is one, etc. The political side, as I said, was dealt by Mr Sharma.” The Shankaracharya also formed a coordination committee with the Hurriyat leaders, with Mr Sharma as his nominee on it. This committee is expected to pave way for the Centre’s talks with the Hurriyat. “The deadlock has been broken. The sooner the Centre talks to them the better. Otherwise it will be responsible for the lives that are lost in between. I urge the Prime Minister to take the initiative immediately,” Mr Sharma, who claimed to be in touch with various Kashmiri leaders since 1994, said. In 1994, Mr Narasimha Rao had asked Mr Sharma to handle the Charar-e-Sharif crisis; and later when Mr Rao went to the US, he had asked Mr Sharma to ensure that Kashmiri groups did not stage demonstrations against him there. When asked what transpired between him and the Hurriyat leaders at the political level, Mr Sharma said: “I cannot reveal that now because things are moving in a positive direction. First let them materialise, then I will tell you.” “But they opened their hearts to us. They said they were not separatists, just that they felt betrayed by politicians, and that their people were being subjected to brutality. After all, what kind of a reaction do you expect from those people when the police picks up a college student for no reason, demands money for his release, and when his parents are not able to pay up, they kill him and dump the body somewhere,” Mr Sharma said. “What is heartening is that they agreed to have Maharaj-ji as the mediator. In fact, the Hurriyat was always ready for talks without conditions. Now that there are no obstacles, the Centre should come to the table immediately,” he said.


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