Kashmiri groups skeptical about Centre's talks offer
8 April 2001
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Kashmiri Pandits dubbed the Centre's announcement to hold talks with Kashmiri groups as "vague" on Sunday. Meanwhile the state Congress asserted it would have nothing to do with the dialogue if it was concentrated on Hurriyat conference. Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Forum, another Kashmiri group, said the Centre's decision to hold talks came too late. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress President Mohammad Shafi Qureshi said, "We welcome the government's announcement to hold talks and nomination of K.C. Pant for the purpose. But if the proposed talks are to concentrate on Hurriyat conference, then we are out of it." Asserting Hurriyat was not the true voice of the people of the state and was "non-existent" in most parts of the state, Qureshi said the conglomerate of 23 separatist organisations had contradictry views on various issues. "Hurriyat does not have any support in most of the state particularly in Ladakh and Jammu," he said, advocating involvement of all mainstream political parties in talks. Panun kashmir, an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, said the Centre's announcement was "vague as it does not mention whether the minority community will be involved in the talks". Stating Kashmiri Pandits were an essential party, Panun Kashmir spokesman Ramesh Manvati asserted "without our involvement, any talks will be meaningless and fruitless". "Ours is an ethnic community whose roots can be traced as far back as 5000 years. We are also the main sufferers of the on-going militancy, making us an essential party while deciding the future of Kashmir," he said. Manvati stressed that geo-political reorganisation of the state was the only feasible solution to Kashmir Problem. Kashmiri Pandit united forum President B.L. Khachroo said the Centre's announcement stressed more on Hurriyat Conference and militant organisations and did not name which other organisation it wanted to hold talks with. "It took the government more than four months after declaring ceasefire to announce talks," JKDF President Bhushan Bazaz said, terming the decision as "too late". "The offer would have been more valid and carried both moral and political weight had it come along with the announcement of unilateral ceasefire in November last," Bazaz said. Complaining that the BJP-led NDA government did not bother to take other parties into confidence, Qureshi alleged the Centre's policy on Jammu and Kashmir was "Kashmir Valley centric" giving the impression that other parts of the state did not exist.