I Won’t Knock Door Bells Of Separatists: Padgaonkar27 October 2010
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Centre’s Chief Interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar said today that every region in the State has its own significance and no region has a right to impose its opinion on the other. Every region has to respect sentiments of others. In a hard talk for the protagonists of azaadi (independence of Kashmir), Mr Padgaonkar called upon them to stop ‘naarebaazi’ (slogans) and talk on policy. He had a question to them that how would they fill the wide gap between revenue and expenditure in an ‘independent Kashmir’. At the same time, he came down heavily on the proposals that smack of a two national theory. No violence, no communal approach and only dialogue were the three points Mr Padgaonkar stressed upon the people of all three regions of the State while talking to the Excelsior in a detailed interview tonight during which he touched a variety of subjects on fifth day of his visit to the State, which will conclude tomorrow afternoon after a meeting with various organizations. The Chief Interlocutor, who arrived here this afternoon along with Prof Radha Kumar, was surprised over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Nationalist Panthers Party (NPP) joining the bandwagon of Hurriyat Conference in their decision not to meet them. Third Interlocutor-M M Ansari, the Information Commissioner, had returned to New Delhi yesterday due to prior engagements. 'It is for the people now to decide where the BJP and NPP stand’’, he quipped. While the BJP has decided to boycott the Centre’s Interlocutors for their comments on azaadi and Pakistan, the NPP said it would meet the delegation if invited. Mr Padgaonkar made it categorically clear that he was a proud Indian and wouldn’t go to the door steps of any body-be they separatists or anyone else-to ring their door bells and call them for a meeting. 'If we respect others, we need respect too. Without invitation, we won’t go to meet anyone. We have self respect. If someone wants us to meet them, we will definitely meet them but we are not going to meet anyone uninvited’’, he said to a question on not meeting the separatist leaders either in Kashmir or in Jammu. The Interlocutors today met civil rights activist Balraj Puri at his Karan Nagar residence and visited Kot Bhalwal Jail to take record of Public Safety Act (PSA) detenues including militants, stone pelters and separatists. However, contrary to expectations, they didn’t meet separatist leaders Shabir Shah or Mian Abdul Qayoom. Central Jail Kot Bhalwal, Superintendent, Mirza Saleem Beigh said all record requisitioned by the Interlocutors was provided to them. The Interlocutors had a quiet dinner at the residence of Political Advisor to Chief Minister Devender Singh Rana at Gandhi Nagar. Mr Padgaonkar said the Kashmiri Pandits were in the core of his heart and he would definitely like to visit one of their camp tomorrow. 'I was disturbed by the plight of Pandits so much that I wrote an article on their miserable conditions in the national newspaper’’, the former Editor-in-Chief of the paper said. He added that he would also like to meet the students of Jammu University and colleges. Mr Padgaonkar said they would submit a preliminary report on their findings of six days visit to the State to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram within a week. On exclusion of Ladakh region from the tour itinerary, the Chief Interlocutor said he had health problems due to which he can’t visit mountainous regions. 'I have suggested that important people from Ladakh should be called to Jammu or New Delhi for the talks and elicit their view point. Ladakh is a largest geographical region. I have a good friend, who is a Lamah in Leh. I have also approached him for the meeting’’, the Interlocutor said. He said the Interlocutors were committed to visit the State every month to meet more and more people, listen to their problems and try to find out a solution to them. After every visit, they would submit their report to the Union Home Minister. During next visit, the interlocutors will visit districts and interior areas of the State, he added. Asserting that more controversies could arise as they were handling a very delicate situation and they won’t mind them, Mr Padgaonkar didn’t see anything wrong in the words Pakistan and azaadi. 'We have to listen to every region, every voice, every section of people but this doesn’t mean that any region can impose its voice over the other. Every region in J&K has its own demands and problems. We are here to understand problems of each and every region. If we are not understanding the problem in correct perspective, the people are here to tell us and explain where we are going wrong’’, he asserted. The Chief Interlocutor said when he met some students in Kashmir, he asked them that he was ready to listen to their demand of azaadi but they should first stop sloganeering. 'I asked them what proposal they have on azaadi? How will they fill the gap between revenue and expenditure. There were several other such questions which were posed to them. I asked them to give the replies during our next visit’’, he added. Mr Padgaonkar said he advised the youth and the people to stop ‘naarebaazi’ and talk on policy. 'Speak on autonomy, azaadi, self rule or any thing else. We are ready to listen. But please be precise and concise. Also take into account the sentiments of other regions. What is liked by the people of one region might not be liked by the other. Moreover, the Indian public opinion, which is reflected in the Parliament of India has to be respected’’, he added and said 'you can’t move forward without a consensus between stake holders’’. The people must know that context and not the words are important. The people of one region should be sensitive to the problem of other region, he said. Clearly opposing division of the State, he said: 'we don’t want any provision which smacks of a two nation theory’’. Advising the stake holders to keep their expectations low, Mr Padgaonkar said the people would criticize them as they was handling a complex situation. The situation is difficult but a way out could be found through dialogue and not through violence or any communal approach. On not meeting separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Mian Abdul Qayoom, president Kashmir Bar Association during their visit to Kot Bhalwal jail despite some reports that the meeting was in the schedule, the Chief Interlocutor said they have decided to meet only those who asked for it. He noted that he met ailing mother of Shabir Shah in Srinagar. Meanwhile, the Interlocut- ors today visited high security Kot Bhalwal jail where 530 prisoners have been lodged including 200 militants, 25 stone pelters and five separatist leaders but met none of them. The stand taken by the Interlocutors of not going to the door steps of separatists was different to the one taken by an All Party Delegation whose members, had visited the residence of Hurriyat Conference leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, JKLF supremo Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah. 'We met a large number of teachers, students, militants, stone pelters, academicians, political leaders and other shades of opinion. There was a good response’’, Mr Padgaonkar told reporters on his arrival at Circuit House here about his four day Kashmir visit denying that they faced a boycott in the Valley. The Interlocutors, however, suffered a setback when main opposition party of Jammu, the BJP, refused to meet them tomorrow during their schedule of meetings with political parties and other organizations. Some Kashmiri Pandit associations and few other organizations, affiliated with the BJP, have also decided to boycott the Interlocutors. Official sources told the Excelsior that contrary to expectations and schedule of the visit of interlocutors notified by the administration, Mr Padgaonkar and Prof Radha Kumar didn’t ask for any meeting with separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Mian Abdul Qayoom in Kot Bhalwal jail or any other separatists and stone pelters. The interlocutors reached Kot Bhalwal jail at 5.40 pm and stayed there for half an hour. 'They asked for the record of militants and stone pelters lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail which was readily provided to them by Jail Superintendent Mirza Salim Beig’’, sources said. They were in the jail for half an hour but didn’t ask for any meeting with either separatist leaders or stone pelters, sources said, adding they sought record of the militants and stone pelters, about 225 detained under PSA or facing trial, which was given to them. Besides Shabir Shah and Mian Abdul Qayoom, Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi, her deputy Hameeda Soofi and Ghulam Nabi Thokar Shaheen are also detained in Kot Bhalwal jail under the PSA. Kot Bhalwal Jail Superintendent Mirza Salim Beig, when approached for comments, confirmed that the Interlocutors took the record of stone pelters and some militants detained under the PSA and didn’t ask for a meeting with any separatist leader. The Interlocutors inquired about living conditions, medical facilities and other arrangements for the jail inmates. They inquired condition from case to case from the Jail Superintendent. Earlier, the Interlocutors met veteran civil rights activist Balraj Puri at his Karan Nagar residence. They were with Mr Puri for about 40 minutes. Mr Puri told the Excelsior on telephone that he stressed for decentralization of powers at grass root level to the Panchayats so that the people are able to take decision on development works on their own. He said Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions have different problems which required to be addressed. He gave his views on the situation prevailing in the State to the Interlocutors including background of the State right from the era of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Talking to reporters at Circuit House soon after their arrival here from Srinagar on a two days visit, the interlocutors made it clear that no one excepting the separatists boycotted their visit in Kashmir. 'We met a large number and cross section of people in the Valley. They included teachers, academicians, students, political leaders, militants and stone pelters’’, Mr Padgaonkar said, adding they would be back in the State after a month’s time and would meet more people besides reviewing progress on their current talks. Saying that they had a mandate to meet cross sections of the society, Mr Padgaonkar said they will be meeting the people associated with the problem. He said they would have frank, candid and comprehensive dialogue with anyone who wants to meet them including the separatists. PTI adds from Srinagar: Advocating 'baby steps' for pushing forward the dialogue process on Jammu and Kashmir, Centre’s Interlocutors today said besides interacting with all shades of opinion in the State, they had a huge task of taking all the stakeholders in the country on board. 'The exercise will be futile if Parliament, which represents the political opinion of the country, is not taken on board. We know it is a huge task but it has to be done,' Dileep Padgaonkar told reporters in a freewheeling interaction in Srinagar. He said during the four days of interaction with the cross-section of the society in Kashmir, the interlocutors got a valuable insight into the issue as they attempt to find a comprehensive and permanent solution to it. 'We heard political opinions on Kashmir and also the day-to-day problems faced by the people like not being able to move freely or getting milk for children,' Padgaonkar said. He said one should not expect major strides after the first visit of the team to the State, saying, 'We will have to take baby steps for pushing forward the dialogue process.' Padgaonkar said the group will be making recommendations to the Centre, after holding similar interactions in Jammu today and tomorrow, for improving the situation in the State. 'The issue of release of political prisoners, stone pelters and lifting of curfew will be among the top priorities in the short term,' he said. Padgaonkar said he was of the opinion that peaceful assembly and protests should be allowed in the Valley. 'We want to hear the view point of the security agencies also. Just because 12 youngsters want to hold protests, Section 144 CrPC (prohibitory orders) cannot be invoked.' Apparently referring to the remarks of BJP MP Ram Jethmalani, Padgaonkar said a senior leader of a political party, which had criticised him, had broken away from the party line to support him. 'The fact that Parliament passed a resolution (for getting back the territory of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani control) makes Pakistan a party,' he said. The eminent journalist said he was hoping that more people will adopt a realistic attitude while an attempt is made to resolve the Kashmir problem. On the refusal of the separatists to meet them, he said, 'As and when they decide to meet us, we will be ready but the invitation has to come from them'. Padgaonkar said while he was sure of getting the 'legendary hospitality' of Kashmir from the separatists if the interlocutors decided to visit them, he would not like to embarrass them. 'We would like to keep their dignity and ours as well,' he added. Professor Radha Kumar said the interlocutors will travel to all the districts of the State in order to get the feel of the ground situation. 'When we visit the districts, we will get a better understanding about whether the deployment of security forces and their bunkers at particular places was needed,' she said. Asked if the mandate of the interlocutors was to go beyond the Constitution of India while seeking a solution to Kashmir issue, Kumar said, 'Constitution is such a beautiful and flexible document that it has been amended over 100 times. Why cannot it be done again if there is consensus on it?' Padgaonkar said ideally a solution to Kashmir issue should be acceptable to people from all parts of the state including those under the occupation of Pakistan. The interlocutors urged the journalists to allow them to go about their work without interference. 'Many times when we go to meet the people and media is already present, they tend to speak for the cameras rather that what they wish to. In some cases, people have expressed security concerns if they come into the media glare while meeting us,' they said.