Hurriyat meet is divided on talks with Pant
21 April 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The crucial meeting of the 21-member working committee of the Hurriyat Conference’s constituent parties was held here on Saturday to decide on holding talks, or otherwise, with the Centre’s point man, Mr K.C. Pant. Hurriyat sources said the working committee members, or their substitutes, attended the meeting. The star attraction at Saturday’s deliberations was Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had either not been invited or did not turn up at earlier meeting of the Hurriyat central executive following differences with his colleagues in the amalgam’s highest decision-making body. However, only the working committee members spoke at Saturday’s meeting and their senior leaders, including Mr Geelani, heard them patiently, amalgam sources said. The Hurriyat is silent on the deliberations at the working committee but said all the participants expressed themselves in a “cordial and free atmosphere.” The issue, particularly the views expressed at Saturday’s meeting, will be referred to the Hurriyat general council, which is to meet here on Monday. Soon after Monday’s meeting, the central executive committee, which had at its sitting on Tuesday decided to consult the working committee and the general council on the vital issue, will meet again to take a final decision, a Hurriyat spokesperson said. Insiders said a majority of the working committee members felt the Hurriyat should not change its stance that unless its nominated five-member delegation is allowed to visit Pakistan it could not embark on talks with Mr Pant or any other representative of the Union government. Some members even questioned the wisdom of entering into a dialogue with New Delhi. However, others felt that the talks offer should not be rejected outright. They felt that in the changing situation, and more importantly to prevent further bloodshed and destruction in the state, it had become imperative to accept the talks offer with certain conditions and “seek an amicable and honourable solution.” Those in favour of talks with the Centre vowed it would not be a sellout on their part. Others opposing the idea itself asserted that “no talks are possible when the Indian security forces are continuing to indulge in the worst acts of human rights violations in the state.” Some also expressed doubts on whether the Centre was sincere at all. “We can know that only when we do talk to them,” was the answer from the other side. Again, some members were of the view that talks should be held “on the dispute itself” and for that the Indian government ought to accept that Kashmir was disputed territory.