Centre for talks to Hurriyat with open mind: Patil
8 August 2004
The Hindustan Times
Press Trust of India
New Delhi: The Centre does not have any rigid stand on talks with separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir and would talk to Hurriyat Conference with an open mind, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said on Sunday. 'Hurriyat has difficulties in coming for talks,' he acknowledged in an interview to PTI. Asked whether there would be any condition in holding talks with Hurriyat, Patil countered, 'I will say that there will be no conditions except that I will be talking within the four walls of the Constitution.' Elaborating, he said, 'If anything has to be done, it has to be done in a manner which is acceptable to the people in the country and to the Constitution.' 'Supposing you all say that change the Constitution and give them something or take something from them. We are not saying that no we will not do that,' he said. 'So if you interpret this statement of mine it is rigid, its not giving them enough elbow room, that is not giving justice to my statement,' Patil said. Asked about the talks with other groups in the state, he said, 'Hurriyat is talking to us. We value its co-operation. We will not give up our approach and talk to other groups at their cost.' About the new development of floating of a new party by pro-Pakistan hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and whether it would cause further impediments in holding talks, the Home Minister said, 'Whether it will help in the peace process or not is a thing to be seen but it is not necessary to comment on this. It may help or it may further cause difficulties in the peace process.' Asked whether allowing Geelani's supporters to attend the Organisation of Islamic Conference in Turkey was an attempt to woo the hardline leader to the dialogue table, Patil said, 'This should not be interpreted like this. They are our brothers and not enemies.' About the worsening of situation in the state, he said, 'I am not saying that everything is well. Normalcy has not returned to the Valley. But the assessment that it has worsened it probably not correct.'