Padgaonkar, Kumar Meet PC10 August 2011
New Delhi: In a development reflective of the discord in Kashmir panel, only two interlocutors- Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar- met Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday while M M Ansari, who has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding the panel, was conspicuous by his absence. The duo, sources said, was summoned to North Block to enquire about the cause of differences in the three-member team. “The meeting was fixed at 5 pm to find out what has triggered fissures within the panel,” sources said. In the meeting, which lasted for around half an hour, the panel was given clear-cut directions not to let their mutual differences come in the way of their assignment and finalize the draft for political settlement of Kashmir issue. The meeting comes in the wake of Ansari’s criticism of Padgaonkar and Kumar over their participation in conferences organized by pro-Pakistani and pro-separatist groups abroad. The chief interlocutor attempted to downplay Ansari’s absence by saying 'there was some communication gap'. Asked about the absence of Ansari, Padgaonkar said, 'There was a communication gap. There is no problem. Whenever we will visit Jammu and Kashmir again, all three of us will be going.' Sources said Padgaonkar wanted to keep the momentum of the panel going and not to intervene between Kumar and Ansari. However, Ansari, a former bureaucrat, claimed that he had not been invited at all. 'It is not believeable that there is a communication gap. I was in office whole day and my phone was perfectly in order,” he was quoted by PTI as saying. Talking to Rising Kashmir over phone from New Delhi, Ansari said, “I heard there is a meeting between the home minister and the two interlocutors. I have not been invited, I don’t know why.” Meanwhile, about the agenda of the meeting, Padgaonkar said the focus was on the report. 'We will be spending considerable time with him (Chidambaram) after August 15,' he told PTI. Sources said the meeting deliberated on the progress made by the panel and also the recent controversy surrounding the team members. Ansari has been critical of both Padgaonkar and Kumar participating in the conferences which came to light after the arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri-American, accused by the FBI of receiving ISI funds for organising meetings. Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, had openly expressed her anger over the 'smear campaign' indulged in by Ansari regarding her participation in such an international conference. “It was getting on my nerves. I don’t know why he (Ansari) was doing it,” Kumar told Rising Kashmir. “I was left with no option but to approach Home Ministry for redressal.” Kumar said it was after hectic efforts that they won the trust of people of Jammu and Kashmir and managed to meet over 500 delegations since their appointment in October last year. “I am of the belief that the mission for which we have been appointed should go on,” she said. The academician, however, did not rule out that she had resigned. “I will not confirm it neither would I deny,” she said. However, sources said Kumar had shot a letter to the home minister stating that if Ansari is not reigned in, she would resign. Kumar said she would play her part in framing the final political settlement document for Kashmir by October this year. “I have decided to remain part of the panel till the document is prepared.” “For me the chapter is closed, it is up to Ansari now,” she told Rising Kashmir. Meanwhile, political experts believe the meeting between the home minister with Padgaonkar and Kumar tantamounts to sidelining Ansari. “I don’t know why I wasn’t invited,” Ansari said. “Not inviting me indicates that the home minister wanted to convey or discuss something with the two (Padgaonkar and Kumar) and not me.” About the “war of words” between him and Kumar, he termed the media reports as malicious and the allegations against him as baseless. “I have only asked my colleagues to put it in the public domain with whom they met during their visits abroad,” Ansari said. “Our mandate is to find a political settlement of Kashmir issue and I will not betray people of J&K. I want everything we do to be transparent,” he added. Meanwhile, sources said Ansari has not been in touch with his two colleagues for more than a week now. With Ansari left out of Wednesday’s meeting with the home minister, the differences within the panel are unlikely to be settled any time soon.