An all-party delegation seeking to end turbulence in Kashmir concluded its two-day visit with no breakthrough, but Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh saw some positives even as he lashed out at the separatists for their refusal to meet the MPs.
Visibly unhappy at the stubborn refusal of Hurriyat leaders to meet some MPs who had literally knocked at their doors in Srinagar on September 4, Singh said that their conduct was against democracy, humanity or even ‘Kashmiriyat’ (Kashmiri ethos).
Singh led the delegation of 26 MPs from 20 parties which stayed overnight in Srinagar before stopping over in Jammu this afternoon. After spending a few hours in Jammu, it returned to Delhi.
The Home Minister disagreed with the view that the mission was a failure and said the delegation had “very good interactions” with individuals and groups. The delegation would meet in Delhi and discuss the future action plan.
Before winding up the Kashmir leg of the visit, Singh sent out a clear message to separatists, asserting that the state will “always” remain an integral part of India.
“There should be no doubt that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and will always be integral part of India,” he said at a press conference in Srinagar.
“As far as talks are concerned, our doors are open to everyone who wants peace and normalcy. Not only doors, even our ventillators are open for talks,” Singh said.
He said he was aware that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had written letters to separatist leaders inviting them for talks with the delegation.
“I want to clarify that some members of the delegation had gone to meet Hurriyat leaders yesterday. Neither had we said ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ (to their meetings). Whatever happened you know about it. I do not wish to go into the details.
“But whatever information those friends gave us upon their return, it can be said it was not ‘Kashmiriyat’. It cannot be called as Insaniyat (humanity). When someone goes for talks and they reject it, it is not ‘jamhooriyat’ (democracy) as well,” he said.
Talking about the motive behind the visit, the Home Minister said Parliament, which is the supreme “panchayat” of the country, is very serious about the situation in Kashmir and hence decided to send a delegation of its members for talks.
The entire country and Parliament are pained by the situation in Kashmir and want early restoration of peace, he said.
Asked whether India plans to talk to Pakistan on Kashmir, Singh shot back, “First let us talk to Indians.”
When asked whether the Centre is willing to go the extra mile on the demands of autonomy raised by PDP and National Conference from time to time, he said, “We are not concerned with whatever one had said in the past. We have taken everyone’s view and cooperation to improve the situation in Kashmir in the delegation-level talks.”
To a query about possibility of ‘Track-2’ talks on Kashmir, Singh said he did not wish to enter into a debate about “track-one, track-two or track-three.”
The Minister said during his previous visit last month, concerns had been raised over the use of pellet guns and regarding this, non-lethal PAVA shells have been recommended as a replacement.
“The shells will not take lives. About 1000 shells have arrived in Srinagar,” he said.
More than 30 delegations comprising 300 members from political parties, civil society, University teachers, fruit growers, students and intellectuals have presented their view before the delegation, he said.
“Everyone wants that the situation must improve. The delegation spoke to these people, the Governor and the Chief Minister of state and also officials of the state government. I am fully confident that the situation will improve which people also want,” he said.
He said the Centre is giving full support to the state government which is also trying to bring improvement in the situation.
Meanwhile, justifying the refusal of separatist leaders to hold talks with the all-party delegation, hardline Hurriyat Conference said they were not invited officially as New Delhi is “scared” of any meaningful dialogue with them and Pakistan to address the issue.
Later while addressing a brief press conference in Jammu, Singh was asked by a reporter whether the visit was a failure. He disagreed, saying it cannot be described as a failure.
The delegation, he said, had “very good interactions” with individuals and groups during its visit to Kashmir and Jammu and heard their views on different issues.
Many members of the delegation had little knowledge about Jammu and Kashmir and the visit helped them to understand the ground situation of the state, the Home Minister added.
“I hope that whenever any discussion on Jammu and Kashmir takes place in Parliament, we will get full cooperation from them,” he said.
Singh said the delegation will meet in New Delhi after its return and will chalk out the future course of action.
“The all-party delegation will meet in Delhi after its return and decide the action plan for the future,” he said.
Singh said the delegation would like to visit Ladakh also in the near future as the region too is a part of Jammu and Kashmir state and it is important to listen to the voice of the people there.
The Minister said to address concerns of Kashmiri youths living in different parts of the country the Ministry has appointed Dr Sanjay Rai as nodal officer who can be approached on phone number 011-23092923, 23092885.
The delegation comprised 26 MPs from 20 parties.
Apart from the Home Minister, the delegation also included Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, his Lok Sabha colleague Mallikarjun Kharge, senior Congress leader Ambika Soni, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan (of LJP), JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI leader D Raja.
NCP’s Tariq Anwar and Trinamool Congress’ Saugata Roy, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and Anandrao Adsul, TDP’s Thota Narasimham, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Prem Singh Chandumajra, BJD’s Dilip Tirkey, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, AIUDF’s Badaruddin Ajmal and Muslim League’s E Ahamed will be party of the delegation.
TRS’ Jitendra Reddy, N K Premchandran (RSP), P Venugopal (AIADMK), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Y B Subba (YSR-Cong), Jaiprakash Yadav (RJD), Dharamveer Gandhi (AAP) and Dushyant Chautala (RLD) are also in the team.