May 2002 News

Centre ditched me, says Shabir Shah

10 May 2002
The Hindu

SRINAGAR: The president of the Democratic Freedom Party, Shabir Ahmed Shah, has called for a ''comprehensive dialogue'' with the Kashmiri leadership before the elections so that a road map is drawn to resolve the long- pending issue. The Central Government was not sincere and it had no policy to deal with the Kashmir problem, he said. Talking to The Hindu in the backdrop of his reported statements on joining the electoral process, Mr. Shah said if the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was sincere in his efforts in finding an amicable solution he should form a core group comprising people from his office and the Ministries of Defence, Home and the External Affairs. ''This is important as any move to initiate a process on Kashmir falls victim to the bickering among these Ministries.'' Mr. Shah said he had not changed his stand on elections in the past few months. A dialogue process had to be initiated by this core group before the elections. ''If elections come as a means to resolve the Kashmir issue, I have no objection to take part in them,'' he said adding, ''since the Government of India (GOI) always talks about the representative character I am ready to prove it but only after all parties agree that it is a beginning towards a solution. The GOI only wants us to contest elections and not to talk about real issues,'' said Mr. Shah who was suspended from the All-Party Hurriyat Conference for ''indiscipline'' a few years ago. Mr. Shah said the K.C. Pant ''mission'' had failed as the GOI was not sincere. ''Despite inviting the wrath of the people who made an attempt on my life, I agreed to talk to Mr. Pant and asked the GOI to initiate a process by taking some decision which included the release of detenus to create a conducive atmosphere for the talks but there was no response. The GOI ditched me,'' said the separatist leader who had been in jail for 20 years. ''I told the GOI that there should be no conditions for talks and the GOI has to make it clear that talks could be held only with political people. But in return it extended the Disturbed Areas Act to the entire State with Jammu facing huge loss on account of tourist rush. ''We had made it clear that if the militants fired a bullet towards Indian forces we do not expect them to shower flowers on them but the innocent civilians need to be spared,'' he said. Asked whether he would like to have a dialogue with the GOI as ''chief minister'' of the State, he said ''it is premature'' to talk about it. He hastily added: ''we have not closed any option but want to have a comprehensive dialogue between the GOI and the political setup here''. At the same time, Mr. Shah asserted, Pakistan could not be ignored in the final settlement to the Kashmir issue. We were the first to welcome the Agra summit though it could not give the desired results.


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