March 2004 News

Railers And De-railers

19 March 2004
The Indian Express

New Delhi: It now appears that the next round of talks with the Hurriyat Conference is proceeding on schedule despite the moments of anxiety that continue to surface from time to time. The Centre has formally sent its invitation to the Hurriyat Conference chairman, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, to lead his delegation to New Delhi for the second round of the ongoing dialogue. On its part, the executive committee of the Conference has held extensive discussions on the issues that need to be raised with New Delhi. These developments are a heartening indication that the process is being taken seriously by the two sides. There are many in the Valley and across the border who are keen to see the entire project derailed for ideological, political or personal reasons. The man leading the breakaway group of the Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani - who has been staunchly and bitterly opposed to these bilateral discussions and even split the Hurriyat Conference on the issue - has lost no opportunity to attack those participating in the process as betrayers of the cause and the Hurriyat constitution. The hardliner has long been pressing for the UN or a 'friendly nation' to be brought into the picture. Arguments of these railers and de-railers - and Geelani is a prime representative of this tribe - need to be publicly addressed because, ultimately, this is also a battle at the ideological plane and the people need to understand the contours of what is at stake. It is for this reason that Maulvi Abbas Ansari did well in taking on his opponents at a public meeting on Wednesday in which he accused Geelani and his ilk of attempting to create confusion in the minds of the people by misrepresenting facts. In that address Ansari also revealed how seriously the Hurriyat Conference under him was taking the process - he observed that 'meaningful dialogue' was the 'key' to finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue. New Delhi must take its cue from these observations and respond in a spirit of accommodation and friendship. Earlier, it had sensibly realised that the resentment over human rights abuse was spiralling out of control in the Valley and moved quickly to get the security forces in the state to observe greater restraint in their operations. This seems to have provided the much needed fillip to the moderates and to keep the dialogue process on track - the distractions of the current general election season notwithstanding.


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