J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of mainstream political parties Monday welcomed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement on the initiation of a dialogue process in the state but the separatists remained silent, offering no immediate reaction. At least ten separatist leaders have been arrested by central agencies for their alleged involvement in suspicious transactions. Mehbooba Mufti, who has always been advocating talks with separatists and Pakistan, welcomed the Centre’s initiative and said stakeholders should consider this as an opportunity and start a dialogue as it is the need of the time.
“This dialogue initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 15th August speech — ‘na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se,’’ she said, adding that this initiative was to win “the hearts of people of J&K” and a policy towards “the healing touch”. She said security measures in J&K have been taken and are on currently. But the start of a political dialogue, she said, is very important. “It has already happened in the past and now it is happening again. In the past, the dialogue rendered good results.’’
Mehbooba Mufti said as far as she knew, the interlocutor — former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma — is “a good man with huge credibility”. “He has taken part in many dialogues in the past in the North East and done some good work,’’ she said, adding she was hopeful that the stakeholders will take part and benefit from this offer so that J&K is taken out from daily violence and bloodshed. “It should be the concern of all stakeholders including us: how to take people of J&K out of this disturbance… It is a Confidence Building Measure and necessity of the time.”
Asked whether the NIA raids had something to do with this offer, the Chief Minister said the political process and security measures were two separate issues. “People are caught between so many guns right now and they want to come out of it now. It is a good initiative and should be a success. It has given me hope.’’ Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said his party will keep an open mind on the process. ‘’Centre announces an interlocutor to engage with stake holders in J&K. Will keep an open mind & wait to see results of the dialogue process,’’ he tweeted.
‘’The acceptance of the political nature of the #Kashmir issue is a resounding defeat of those who could only see use of force as a solution… More important than the person is the mandate & absence of pre-conditions,” he said. The separatist leadership maintained complete silence. Sources said it was likely that the separatists may come out with a joint statement Tuesday after a meeting of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is a regular on Twitter, did not post any reaction to the Centre’s offer of talks. PDP Youth president Waheed ur Rehman Parra told The Indian Express that his party had been waiting for this moment since they took over the reins of power. “It is a very positive step. There is a need to institutionalise the dialogue process on Kashmir — a sustained and meaningful one — while making sure everyone is taken on board.’’ He said he hoped that the separatists would also welcome this initiative.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said the Congress was always for dialogue. “It was the Centre that had refused to hold talks. Now that they have appointed an interlocutor, they should first decode who are the stakeholders with whom they are going to talk.’