Appearing to signal that the time was ripe for dialogue in Jammu & Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik made a public statement on Saturday, in the presence of two ministers from the Narendra Modi Cabinet, that the separatist Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks.
“Things are much better than when I came here. Look at the Hurriyat, Ram Vilas Paswan stood at their door and they didn’t open the door. Now they are ready for talks,” Malik said.
The Governor was speaking at a Doordarshan event in Srinagar. Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar and Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh were also present on the occasion.
In an interview published on Friday in the Daily Excelsior from Jammu, All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had said the Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the government. Reiterating what he said last month after the BJP’s massive election victory, he said: “With such massive mandate, it is the responsibility of the central government to take forward the political process in the state and initiate all possible measures to put an end to the cycle of violence in the state”. He could not be contacted on Saturday.
The Hurriyat leader, in his interview, also said that “we will never shirk from our responsibility to take the political process forward, and if the Centre shows sincerity (we) will respond in appropriate manner”.
After the BJP’s huge win in the Lok Sabha elections, Mirwaiz, in his address to the congregation assembled at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid for the last Friday of Ramzan, had said: “People of India overwhelmingly voted for Mr Modi and his party… this mandate gives PM Modi the opportunity and the power to play a decisive role in the resolution of the long pending Kashmir conflict”.
He had also said that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved militarily or through confrontation “but by dialogue and deliberations, and Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s oft-repeated offer of dialogue on all issues between India and Pakistan, including on the Kashmir issue, should be seriously considered by the new dispensation in New Delhi as the way forward.”
However, even as the Governor seemed to be welcoming Mirwaiz Farooq’s olive branch, the Hurriyat leader was placed under house arrest and prevented from attending a book fair at Kashmir University Saturday. On Friday, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the most senior Hurriyat leader, was also prevented by security personnel from leaving his house to visit the book fair.
Governor Malik also noted that recruitment has come down and instances of stone-throwing incidents post-Friday prayers have “nearly ceased”. “We do not feel good at all about young men dying. We are interested in bringing them back and Centre is thinking about this. However, when a bullet is fired, one cannot respond to that with bouquets. A bullet will be responded to with a bullet by General sahab,” he said.
Underscoring that the youth are being “misled” by being told that they will find a place in heaven, Malik said that “they have two heavens before them — one that they live in, that Jehangir termed as heaven, and another that they can achieve by being good Muslims.” Malik added that J&K could become the best state in the country. “You have your own flag and your own Constitution. The flag of Kashmir is placed next to the national flag on my car. We just need to work with earnestness,” he said. He added that the problem of Kashmir “is the problem of the younger generation. Uski narazgi agar hum door kar denge, toh sab kuch theek ho jayega.”
Taking note of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s appeal to overcome the drug menace among the youth of Kashmir, Governor Malik said he was grateful to him for bringing attention to this issue. Governor Malik, along with Javdekar and Jitendra Singh, distributed set top boxes that are being provided free of cost to “identified beneficiaries”. Singh also launched the Dogri News Bulletin which will be aired everyday on DD Kashmir.