February 2003 News

Kashmir Committee Suspends J-K Peace Talks

23 February 2003
The Hindustan Times

Jammu: Six months after coming into existence, the Kashmir Committee headed by former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani on Sunday suspended its agenda of talks with separatists in Jammu and Kashmir saying the Centre's new interlocutor N.N. Vohra should be given a 'free field' to find peace in the restive state. Stating that the suspension of talks with separatist groups could be a prelude to closing down of its operations in the state, Convenor of the Kashmir Committee Ashok Bhan said, 'We don't want to be seen as the one who plays spoil sport in bringing peace to the state. Our aim was to restore the lost glory and we don't mind anyone from the government shouldering the responsibility.' However, Bhan said the Government had caused a lot of impediments in its efforts to restore peace in the state. 'We were only helping the government, which unfortunately continued to undermine our efforts.' The Committee had done its job and shown the path to the Central regime that 'one could win the hearts of the people in the state with love. A proper hearing is all that is needed,' Bhan said. The seven-member committee was formed in August last year. Besides Jethmalani and Bhan, the other members of the committee included former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, eminent lawyer Fali Nariman, noted scribes Dileep Padgaonkar and M.J. Akbar and retired diplomat V.K. Grover. 'We have lit the torch and it is up to Vohra to decide whether he wants to walk on our path or find his own way,' Bhan said. He said the committee had managed to create a common opinion within the separatist groups about abjuring of violence which had not been possible before. All the separatist groups, which always had a clash of ideas, were of the common opinion that return of Kashmiri pundits was essential and that no trifurcation of state allowed, Bhan said. The name of Vohra was announced by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani in Parliament on February 19. The 66-year-old seasoned bureaucrat would be holding talks with the MLAs and other groups in the state who were opposed to violence. The Kashmir Committee, during last six months, visited Kashmir valley and other parts of the state twice and also held at least four rounds of talks with Hurriyat and other senior separatist leader Shabir Shah besides holding talks with political parties in the state.


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