October 2016 News

Team Delhi 'happy' With Kashmir Visit

27 October 2016
The Hindu

Srinagar: The five-member Delhi team, led by former Union Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, concluded its three-day Kashmir visit on Thursday, with key stakeholders stressing on initiating confidence building measures before any concrete step towards formal dialogue process is taken. The team held three key meetings - with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday evening, and with Governor N.N Vohra and Hurriyat faction chairman Syed Ali Geelani, who is spearheading the 111-day long street agitations, on Thursday. The group also met members of the influential Srinagar-based High Court Bar Association, which has called for 'an unconditional dialogue process.' Unlike in September when separatists refused to meet an all-party delegation, Mr. Sinha, who claims he has no mandate, expressed satisfaction with the visit. 'The delegation had a great impact on people and the situation. I am happy separatist leaders met us and put across their point of view in an amicable way. The meeting with Mr. Geelani was a pleasure. We heard them all. We are satisfied and will go happily to New Delhi,' said Mr. Sinha, who has served both as Union Finance Minister and External Affairs Minister. The second round of meeting with Mr. Geelani at 10 a.m. fuelled speculation that the group was able to exchange key notes with him before flying out of the restive Valley. A team member, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that 'all stakeholders stressed on continuation of this process.' It has also emerged that the delegation did raise the issue of examination and reopening of schools with Mr. Geelani. However, the separatist leader told the delegation that examinations could be held only 'in a peaceful atmosphere' and should be deferred. 'Students cannot attend schools when their relatives, friends and neighbours are either in the graveyard or admitted to hospitals or slapped with the Public Safety Act. The government should release all the people, including students. Cases should be withdrawn, police raids stopped and people allowed to hold peaceful demonstrations.' In his meeting with the delegation, J&K Governor Mr. Vohra also said there must be 'a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders for securing very early restoration of peace and normality.' 'A good sign' Hailing Mr. Sinha's Kashmir visit, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah expressed the hope it would lead to initiation of official talks on the Kashmir issue. 'It's also a good sign that Hurriyat leaders warmly welcomed the delegation and held discussions with them. We hope this paves the way for a credible, meaningful and formal dialogue between New Delhi and various stakeholders in the State,' Dr. Abdullah said in Srinagar.