Updated: November 27, 2017 4:19:38 pm
On his second visit to Kashmir since his appointment as the Centre’s special representative, Dineshwar Sharma had his hands full on Sunday as he patiently lent an ear to the locals who had come to apprise him of their grievances and put forward their demands.
Jana Begum stood outside the fortified Circuit house in Pulwama district before mustering up the courage to go inside. “Who is in there?” she asked a security officer. Struggling to find a translation for the word interlocutor, the official told her that the district administration was holding a meeting. No one stopped her or checked her identity as she crossed the gates. Her grievance: She wanted to speak to someone “high enough” to give her land for a house.
Begum was one of the over 150 people who queued up at the Circuit house to meet Sharma. Among them, were 70 youths from the area, led by the ruling PDP’s youth wing president Waheed-ur- Rehman, who met the former Intelligence Bureau chief and apprised him of their fears of being falsely detained.
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Sajjad Ahmad Bhat, who was shot in his leg while returning from a funeral, said even though he had limited hope from the Centre, he had come to ensure that his children did not suffer the same fate. “I was coming back from a funeral and received a bullet injury in my leg. Two people died in the same incident and then a case of stone pelting was filed against me,” Bhat told The Indian Express. He urged Sharma to consider repealing the cases against him and others like him who had been wrongly apprehended. “He heard me out and assured me that they will consider this but I do not know what to expect,” the resident of Pulwama’s Malangpora said.
Following the injury, Bhat has not been able to go to work and doctors have suggested it would take him another two years to recover. Shifting his weight between his crutches, Bhat stated, “I came to meet him so that my children do not have to suffer what we suffer. Even if I have little hope, for their sake, it is my responsibility to hold on to it.”
Another member of the delegation, who did not wish to be identified since he has been named in FIRs related to stone-pelting, said, “I asked for cases to be withdrawn. Not just against me, but also all those who have been put in prison. All of them should be released.”
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While the group appreciated the Centre’s initiative to withdraw FIRs against first-time stone pelters, they urged Sharma to consider the release of political prisoners as well. The group also petitioned that the abrogation of Article 370, which gives special status to the state, should be prevented at all costs and safety of Kashmiri students outside the state must be ensured.
Outside the Circuit house, the market was abuzz with activity and most of the locals said they were unaware of Sharma’s presence. Feroze Ahmad, who runs a shop in the main square, said he did not seek a meeting with the Centre’s representative because he had no hope regarding the talks process. Sharma is scheduled to meet members of the civil society, representatives from government departments and artisans in Srinagar on Monday.
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