Pandits Upset Over Invite To Malik For Talks
15 February 2006
The Times of India
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to JKLF leader Yasin Malik for talks on February 17 has angered the Kashmiri Pandits. They feel the government has chosen to meet the separatist leader first 'before meeting his victims'. The PM's meeting with the Pandits has been on the cards for some weeks, but got delayed because of his preoccupations. A Panun Kashmir spokesman said the PMO has also indicated its preference for meeting a compact team of Pandits that would include representatives of refugees in camps in Jammu, Delhi and also those in the Valley. Malik had met the PM last September. But when the PM referred to this meeting in the course of his recent press conference, Malik responded with an outright denial, since he felt compromised vis a vis the hawks in the Valley. Malik would rather have it known that he met Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi when they were in the opposition. With this Friday's meeting in mind, the PMO chose to clarify in response to Malik's disclaimer that he had indeed met Singh while the latter was an opposition leader. In fact, sources say Malik had met Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi twice when the party was in the opposition, along with Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. In meeting Malik again, the Centre, keen on furthering the peace process, has chosen to ignore the fact that Malik is wanted in a dozen cases in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar for offences ranging from murder to terrorist acts and hawala. Well placed sources in the government say Malik had then agreed in principle to join the electoral process, but changed his stance when he found the government getting close to talking to the Hurriyat Conference. Malik has since been talking of eschewing violence. Kashmir watchers emphasise that this is not a change of heart, but of tactics. They point out that only late last year, Malik was chief guest at a Lashkar-e-Taiba function.