Hurriyat divided on joining round-table meet
16 February 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Srinagar: The Kashmir separatist camp's response to the UPA Government's proposed round-table conference of all mainstream and secessionist parties in New Delhi later this month appears to be lukewarm at this stage as a number of constituents in both factions of the Hurriyat Conference have varied reservations on their participation. Notwithstanding the indications of a rough weather, New Delhi has set into motion a major initiative to rope in most of the Jammu & Kashmir parties. A high-level central team from the Union Home Ministry, which was here for two days ostensibly to review the security scenario, established contact with individual leaders in both factions of the Hurriyat as well as some organisations operating independently. Highly-placed official sources revealed to the Excelsior that, on behalf of the MHA team, a Kashmir-based official of a Central agency called on about a dozen separatist politicians and sought their support to New Delhi's fresh move of 'striking a breakthrough on Kashmir'. MHA's Special Secretary, A K Mitra, and Joint Secretary incharge Jammu & Kashmir, Ms Mittali Sengavai, are believed to have met government functionaries and some politicians to study the Valley's likely response to the fresh political initiative. According to these sources, Syed Ali Shah Geelani communicated his 'plain no' to the Centre. He is understood to have told the official that there was no scope of his Hurriyat's participation in the round-table conference until New Delhi declared Jammu & Kashmir a disputed territory. Obviously, his additional conditions were withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, unconditional release of all political detenus and annulment of the Parliamentary resolution of 1995 that had declared J&K as India's integral part and pledged to retrieve 'Pakistan-occupied Kashmir'. Even after his recent visit to Saudi Arabia- where he is reported to have met Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salah-ud-din and other separatist functionaries-Geelani is understood to have been robust in his conversation with the Central official. Sources close to Geelani said that the hardliner leader was likely to take his colleagues into confidence-first in his Hurriyat Executive meeting on Saturday followed by a separate meeting of his own organisation, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir, on Sunday next. Geelani visit to Saudi Arabia besides New Delhi's open invite to the round-table conference are likely to dominate the agenda on both days. While Geelani's intransigence was expected, the Central official is understood to have been disappointed by some leaders of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's Hurriyat. According to sources, Maulvi Abbas Ansari appeared to be the one-odd Hurriyat functionary who demonstrated a reasonable degree of enthusiasm. As Professor Abdul Gani Bhat has been camping in Pakistan since last month and Aga Syed Hassan has been preoccupied with his treatment in New Delhi, Mirwaiz appears non-committal in advance of a thorough discussion with his colleagues. Bilal Gani Lone, Fazal-ul-Haq Qureshi as well as the fresh entrant in the Hurriyat Executive Council, Nayeem Khan, have been expressing their reservations vis-à-vis attendance in the so- called all-parties conclave. Mirwaiz held an 'informal' round of discussion with his colleagues here today. Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Bilal Gani Lone, Fazal-ul-Haq Qureshi and Nayeem Khan attended the meeting. Insiders revealed that all of Mirwaiz Umar's colleagues, excluding Ansari, expressed their reservations vis-à-vis attending not only the New Delhi conference but also Hurriyat's next round of talks with the Prime Minister. The leaders pointed out that none of the CBMs, as mutually agreed upon in their meeting with Prime Minister on September 5th last, had been implemented. They have been seeking removal of some paramilitary bunkers from Srinagar and other major towns in Kashmir besides release of a large number of detainees so as to establish that the 'moderate' Hurriyat's talks were progressing well with the Centre. One of his colleagues is understood to have pointed out to Mirwaiz that the Centre had not even maintained communication with the pioneers of the dialogue on the related issues of making the process broad-based and throwing the suggestion of the all-parties conference. He claimed that there had been an assurance to this effect from the Centre in September last. Sources said that the working committees of different constituents of the Mirwaiz Hurriyat would hold separate deliberations on the same subject on Saturday. In follow up, Hurriyat would hold an extra-ordinary session of all of its bodies on Monday next and take a decision whether or not to participate in the proposed round-table conference. UNI adds The Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) headed by Shabir Ahmed Shah today rejected participation in the round table conference. In a statement here, Mr Shah said the DFP supported any efforts to find an amicable and lasting solution to the vexed Kashmir issue. 'However, we think the time is not conducive for holding such a conference when on one hand India and Pakistan are engaged in talks and announcing several Confidence Building Measures and on the other India is separately holding a dialogue with various separatist leaders,' he added. The DFP chief said in the absence of a joint strategy by the separatist leadership, the holding of such a round table will create nothing but confusion among the people. He demanded a round table conference in which representatives of the people of both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) would participate.