Consensus on dialogue; violence, militancy have failed: Interlocutors13 July 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: The Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir said today that four broad points have emerged during their 10 months long stint in which they covered 20 of 22 districts and met over 4000 people. There was a consensus among the people on maintaining integrity of the State and dialogue was only solution to all problems and not the militancy and violence. Addressing a press conference after the end of their eight day long visit to the State during which they held a two day long Round Table Conference (RTC), Chief Interlocutor-Dileep Padgaonkar accompanied by Prof Radha Kumar and MM Ansari, said everyone out of 590 delegations and 4000 people they met were convinced that process of dialogue was the only option to resolve the problems and that militancy and violence haven’t served any purpose. 'A need to maintain integrity of the State and power sharing between regions and sub regions and maintaining tolerant and pluralistic culture of the State were the other major points, which have emerged during the broad dialogue’’, Mr Padgaonkar said. He added that though aspirations of different regions and different sets of people differed, there was a consensus among majority of people against trifurcation or bifurcation of the State. Intervening, Prof Radha Kumar said the most important commonality that has emerged from ground…from everybody we met…was that all people were looking for a solution, which will accommodate aspirations of the people of the State. This is a visionary approach. Even the national parties were also speaking language of consensus and resolution of the problem, she added. Taking another question on separatists, Prof Kumar observed that the separatists might have their own constrains for not meeting them. 'We respect them. We don’t want to embarrass them. Their (the separatists) previous dialogue was held at the level of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. But we too have our own ‘atam samaan’ (self-respect)’’, she asserted. Replying to a volley of questions on separatists refusing to meet them, Mr Padgaonkar said if the separatists come forward for talks with us, 'it would enrich us and help us to prepare our document. Nevertheless, we would go ahead and submit our report to the Centre in September’’. However, the Chief Interlocutor was of the view that a large number of Sarpanches and Panches met them during their eight days visit to Kashmir and Jammu, who are very close to the people. 'The Panchayat members are engaged in important governance. Their views mattered a lot’’, he asserted. Saying that they didn’t feel humiliated by the separatists’ ‘no’ to meet them or calling their dialogue process as ‘‘farce’’, Mr Padgaonkar told a questioner that the query on why the separatists have refused to meet them should be posed to the separatists and not to them. 'We are ready to meet them-openly or privately. The separatists are refusing to meet us. They have to take a decision (on meeting us)’’, he said, admitting that the separatists are ‘‘stake holders’’ in a solution to Kashmir problem. To another question as to how the consensus, the Interlocutors were talking of, would emerge in the absence of a dialogue with separatists, Mr Padgaonkar said when they speak of consensus, they speak of the people they have met-about 590 delegations-about 4000 people. 'They all are the persons, who mattered including the newly elected Sarpanches and Panches’’. He declined to comment on the separatists allegedly describing their visit as ‘fraud’. Referring to the RTC held for two days in Jammu, he dispelled the impression that there was less participation of the people of Jammu region in the Conference. He said 35 persons from Jammu region, 11 from Srinagar, six from Leh and eight from New Delhi had attended the conference. 'We were privileged to heard award winning invitees like Prof Nilambar Dev Sharma, Vijaya Thakur, Prof Champa Sharma, Dr Jitender Singh and Dr G N Khayal to mention but a few of the luminaries, who spoke at the conference in the atmosphere free of acrimony’’, Mr Padgaonkar said. In response to another question as to whether their report would also meet the fate of five Working Groups set up by the Prime Minister, the Chief Interlocutor replied in negative. 'We submit our report to the Union Home Minister after our every visit to the State. Each report is given due consideration’’, he said. He added that implementation of United Resolutions have absolutely not figured in their talks. Moreover, he said, the second part of UN resolutions including withdrawal of troops by Pakistan has not been implemented. Over past 60 years, Pakistan has handed over some parts of PoK including Aksai Chin to China. No one we met during our visits ever raised the issue of UN resolutions, he added. On the opposition to music concert in Kashmir, Mr Padgaonkar said no where in the country, the cultural or moral policing should be allowed. To a question, he said, they would love to attend a four days conference being organized by Jammu Kashmir Study Centre by the end of this month. He added that they would pay another visit to the State by the month end as holy month of Ramzan was falling in August. Replying to a question that whether they felt that there was no problem in Kashmir and it was only a creation of Pakistan agenda, the Interlocutors said they would incorporate the suggestion in their report. In a signed statement read out by Mr Padgaonkar at the press conference and released to the media later, which had been signed by all three Interlocutors, Mr Padgaonkar listed four major positive developments in the State during their tenth visit to the State from July 6 to 13. The peace in June and first half of July has led to an unprecedented influx of tourists boosting the earnings of tourism sector, the visit of a large number of Amarnath pilgrims-again in an unprecedented scale-, cultural and sporting events, organized in several parts of the State, galvanizing the youth and peaceful conduct of Panchayat elections with impressive turnout, which testified faith of the people in democratic governance at grass root level. Describing as significant their interaction with Sarpanches and Panches, the Interlocutors said the one refrain they heard again and again was that the Panchayats needed to be empowered swiftly to be able to deliver effective governance in their villages and hamlets. They also stressed the need to proceed without delay to elect block and district level bodies. The Sarpanches and Panches have been enthused by the assurances given by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that he was determined to address their demands for an effective devolution of financial and administrative powers, they added. Welcoming the developments aimed at peace, the Interlocutors, however, cautioned against any complacency as past experience has shown that a minor incident could breach the peace. Asserting that successful conduct of Panchayat elections can’t be equated with main political issue in the State, the signed statement of the Interlocutors asserted that the two fall under different categories. 'One concerned transparent and accountable governance at the local level, the other pertained to the larger issue of the Centre-State relations, relations between three regions of the State and interactions between people on both side of the Line of Control’’, they said. Referring to the two days long RTC held in Jammu on July 11 and 12, the Interlocutors said the participants agreed that more than two decades of strife had taken a heavy toll on cultural life in the State. 'Age old traditions of tolerance and harmony had yielded place to indifferent and at times, even to mistrust. Funding for culture-related activities had either dried up or else given to undeserving NGOs. The sense of alienation that ensued was exploited politically in the name of identity politics’’, they asserted. The pointed out that the participants, determined to reverse this unfortunate trend, made a number of specific, concrete and practical suggestions, which included bringing together writers, poets, performing artists, painters, architects and heritage experts from all three regions on the same platform in all major towns and cities in the State and rest of the country, take steps to nurture all languages spoken in the State, create separate institutions along the lines of Academis in Delhi and in other States, promote cultural exchanges between J&K and other regions of the State under Pakistan’s administration, allow exchanges of newspapers, periodicals and books between the two sides, restore museums to their pristine glory and establish at lease one art gallery in Srinagar to exhibit works by contemporary painters and sculptors, allow TV channels from Pakistan to be seen in J&K and allow people in the State to reach out to the people on the other side on the telephone. 'We will include these recommendations in our report’’, they said. They appreciated the announcement of Chinmaya Garekhan, chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts to fund a project to document Pahari culture. The participants were equally heartened to listen to the remarks of Dr Rajan Sushant, BJP member of Lok Sabha from Himachal Pradesh and Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress MP of Rajya Sabha. 'The remarks convinced many of the participants that national political parties would show flexibility and wisdom to reach a broad consensus on a political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir’’, the Interlocutors said. They noted that political issues were also raised during the conference. Participants called for devolution of powers to the regions, districts, blocks and Panchayats, they said, adding there was general agreement that the culture-focused dialogue begun in Jammu-a region endowed with breath-taking ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural plurality-should be carried forward and institutionalized.