Interlocutors To Open Offices In Jammu, Srinagar, Delhi28 October 2010
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Centre appointed Interlocutors on Kashmir have decided to open their offices in Jammu, Kashmir and New Delhi and appoint researchers or educationists to man them with a view to ensure that they remain in touch with the people and other organizations who want to meet them round-the-clock even when they are away. The interlocutors today wound up their six day long first visit to the State during which they covered mainly the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu for four and two days respectively. They planned to meet the members of All Party Delegation that had visited the State on the initiative of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and BJP Parliamentary Party leader L K Advani in New Delhi among others. 'We will try to call on Advani and brief him on our visit to the State’’, Chief Interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar and his colleague Prof Radha Kumar told reporters before winding up their visit to the State and returning to New Delhi this afternoon with a promise to come back soon to continue their mission. They asserted that a solution to the J&K problem must be acceptable to all three regions of the State including Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and reiterated that they were not going to change their stand on not meeting the separatists or any body else uninvited. Earlier talking exclusively to the Excelsior, Prof Radha Kumar said the Interlocutors would pay frequent visits to the State but it was possible that all of them are not in a position to come together or visit every region jointly. 'We are planning that in the event of all three Interlocutors not being able to come together to the State every month, one or two of us would come. May be one of us visit the one region and the other one to second region. Any how, we want to stay in touch with people and representatives of the State’’, she said. Prof Kumar said the Interlocutors were planning to open their offices in Jammu, Srinagar and New Delhi which would be run in their absence by researchers and academicians appointed by them. The office incharge at all three places would receive relevant information, memoranda or anything the people want to bring to the notice of Interlocutors. The material would be supplied to all three Interlocutors immediately, she added and said this would help them stay in touch with people of the State every time even though they are in any place of the country or even abroad. She reiterated the idea mooted by Padgaonkar yesterday, in an interview to the Excelsior, that representatives of Ladakh region could be called to Jammu or New Delhi for a meeting. 'All of us (the Interlocutors) would like to visit Ladakh but we have health related problems. Our appointment as Interlocutors has also come at a time when the weather is getting harsh in Ladakh. Hopefully, we will visit Leh and Kargil in April-May but till then we would meet the people of Leh in Jammu and Ladakh’’, Prof Kumar said. Disclosing that she has already spoken to some people in Ladakh on telephone but declined to reveal their names. Let the names remain secret, she said. Prof Radha Kumar was confident that separatists (whom she liked to call dissidents) would meet them sometime. Admitting that the separatists did matter in Kashmir, she hoped that they would meet them some day. 'Kabhi Na Kabhi’’, she remarked when insisted on whether she was confident of meeting the separatists during their next visit to Kashmir. To a question whether she feels that one year term of Interlocutors was too long, Prof Kumar replied in negative. 'We will try to complete our task at the earliest but if we need more than (even beyond one year), we will get it as the Centre Government is very serious in finding a solution to Kashmir problem’’, she said. On her findings about the incidents of stone pelting and other form of protests in Kashmir, the Interlocutor said: 'there could be genuine protests as well as instigated protests’’. Speaking to reporters after visiting Muthi camp of Kashmiri migrants and meeting various delegations at Circuit House, Padgaonkar and Prof Kumar made it clear that any solution to Kashmir problem must be acceptable to all three regions of the State. Third Interlocutor M M Ansari had returned to New Delhi from Kashmir a day before as he had to demit office as Information Commissioner. Padgaonkar, who took most of the questions from the journalists, said that any kind of solution must be acceptable to all regions of the State and all sections of the people with complete endorsement of public opinion of India as is expressed in the Parliament. 'Only then, we can carry things forward’’, he added. The Chief Interlocutor admitted that they would be meeting BJP Parliamentary Party leader L K Advani in New Delhi along with a number of other people. It may be mentioned here that the State unit of the BJP had boycotted Interlocutors for their remarks on azaadi and Pakistan. However, he said, he can’t discuss the details of talks with Advani as these are briefings and exchange of ideas. 'We will brief the Government and opposition parties. We will also submit a preliminary report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. We will also try to meet the members of All Party Delegation, which had visited the State few days back, to give them impressions about what we heard and learned in Srinagar and Jammu’’, he said, adding during their next visit they would visit interiors of Kashmir and Jammu to get a feedback from those areas. To a question on whether they had asked the students to prepare a roadmap for azaadi, Prof Kumar said the people including students came to them with ideas and 'we asked them to suggest us during our next visit how these could be discussed with greater detail’’. The preparation of our roadmap is a task that has been entrusted to us’’, she said. She added that azaadi is a very flexible and nuance term which has many meanings for different people. One of our tasks will, no doubt, be to explore these nuances in coming months, she asserted. Prof Kumar denied having made any suggestion on amendment of the Constitution saying 'it was fabricated’’. 'What I did say is that Indian Constitution is a very beautiful document made after the hard work of five years and I am very fond of it. It has demonstrated flexibility time and again’’, she said. However, she added, 'if there is some agreement by all parties on some new solution,I am sure that Indian Parliament would be happy to consider it. 'You know the history of our Constitution which took five years of debate all over the country and if you read those debates I can tell you as an Indian, you will be so proud’’. The Interlocutors stressed that they had made a 'modest' beginning to a 'long and arduous' journey. 'But we are at the beginning of a journey which is going to be long and arduous one and we are prepared for it,' Padgaonkar said. 'This is the only first visit to try and learn complexities in J&K situation and we will share our impressions with them,' Padgaonkar said, adding 'we will also seek insights about how to proceed'. 'This not an event but a process and the process is going to take a long time to fructify,' Padgaonkar said. 'Our determination is to go and tell political leaders back in Delhi of what we have gathered,' he said and added 'so it is completely premature to formulate opinions as we are in the process of understanding and listening people which is our mandate'. In response to a query whether they had visited Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu to meet separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Abdul Qayoom, Padgaonkar said 'that is not correct but we went to jail to get details of detenues who have been there for militancy related reasons and to find from jail as to where their cases stood'. He said the Jail Superintendent provided them comprehensive details about these aspects. Padgaonkar emphasised that the three-member panel of Interlocutors will not meet any one 'unless they invite us'. 'We have said time and again that anyone who wishes to speak to us, we will be happy to speak them,' he said and added 'if they chose not to speak to us, I am sure they have constraints or compulsions'. Emphasising that their task was to start the dialogue process, Kumar said 'we believe that we have made a modest beginning to that end and nothing can deflect us on that purpose'. Kumar also said that it was a short but rich trip for them as they met a large number of people in Jammu. 'Our focus was on migrants and their aspirations. We also met some political parties and linguistic and religious groups. 'Next time we want to spend 4-5 days in Jammu and also go to different districts in Jammu division,' she said.