J&K Interlocutors Run Into 'stone' Wall23 December 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: Three months into their mission and on their third visit to the Valley, the Central government interlocutors for Kashmir, Dilip Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar amd M M Ansari have run into a brickwall. They've been unable to secure demands like the release of stone-pelters or even arrive at a workable definition of what constitutes 'peaceful protest'. Asked whether stone-pelters, who paralyzed the Valley for several months this year, could come under the panel's recommendation to the state government to allow peaceful protests, Padgaonkar said, 'Any protest that doesn't include violence should be allowed... any stone pelting that doesn't cause any harm is part of a peaceful protest.' The formulation has surprised the security forces. 'Either Padgaonkar believes that youngsters will throw stones at trees and go home or he is saying the police should first wait to see if a policeman or two gets killed, and retaliate only then,' said a police officer not wanting to be named. A majority of around 110 people killed in this summer's violence were young boys, out on the streets pelting stones at security forces. This turned into a vicious cycle with each death fuelling more anger and renewed clashes. The state police then began arresting some of the prominent youngsters and by the time violence receded, in Srinagar alone, 698 youth were arrested. The police claim the arrests had a salutary effect on the protesters. The interlocutors, from the time they arrived here, have been appealing to the state government to release all the youth who were arrested - a move endorsed by Union home minister P Chidambaram. But, two months later, far from releasing any stone-pelter, the state police is still tracking down and arresting young boys who actively participated in the summer unrest. The police are monitoring sites like Youtube and Facebook to press charges against those who espoused violence. All this is seriously undermining the three-member panel's credibility and raising questions about the support it enjoys with the state government. This is bad news for the 'political solution' that the Centre had mandated the interlocutors with - an attempt that has already been dismissed by major separatist organisations.