New Delhi: The three-member team of interlocutors on Kashmir led by noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar will start a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir from today.
The team will meet the Home Minister P Chidambaram to be briefed on the mandate that the group would be pursuing. Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari and academic Prof Radha Kumar are other two members of the team.
Padgaonkar said, they are going to address the entire range of issues with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and different shades of political opinion. He said, if a political issue is brought to the table, the group will not shy away from discussing it.
The panel came in for criticism from Kashmiri separatists suggesting the absence of a politician in the panel indicated the non-serious approach of the government. Padgaonkar, however made it clear that criticism has in no way disheartened the group. He also added that their terms of reference did not restrict what they discuss. The panel will submit its report to the Centre within a year.
The interlocutors will be in Jammu and Kashmir for one week each month. As part of the eight-point peace package for Kashmir, the Centre on October 13 finalised the names of the three interlocutors to hold a renewed dialogue with separatist leaders in the trouble-torn Valley, on the boil for the past few months, and asked the people of Kashmir to engage with them.
Padgaonkar was member of the Kashmir Committee led by eminent lawyer and now Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ram Jethmalani. Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Millia Islamia, was engaged in back-channel discussions with ‘moderate’ Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. She was in the valley recently and had visited Geelani at a hospital in Srinagar where he was undergoing treatment.
Ansari was a professor and director at the Hamdard University before becoming the Information Commissioner.
The announcement of non-political persons as interlocutors came as a surprise to many who were expecting senior politicians with sufficient grounding in the Kashmir issue to be in charge of the dialogue.
According to Agence India Press, the appointments were one of the main points in the New Delhi’s eight-point agenda announced last month to bring normalcy in Kashmir. The other points include dismantling of bunkers from sensitive places in Kashmir, redeployment of paramilitary forces, lifting of curfew from the Valley, economic assistance and a review by the unified command of the Disturbed Area Act in the state.
Earlier, the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said, the three interlocutors would hold talks with all sections of society, including the separatists, to keep on a “sustained uninterrupted dialogue” to resolve the Kashmir crisis. The interlocutors had been appointed as per a Cabinet Committee on Security decision and one more people would be appointed an interlocutor.
The three interlocutors will begin the process of “sustained uninterrupted dialogue” with all shades of opinion to resolve the Kashmir problem, Chidambaram said. “We hope that they will begin a process of sustained uninterrupted dialogue with all sections of people, especially with youths and students,” Chidambaram told reports earlier here.
The Kashmir Valley is witnessing an uneasy peace after almost four months of turmoil. Amidst all this, the eight-point package announced by the Central government post the visit of the All Party Delegation to the State has failed to generate much enthusiasm. Now, as part of the package, the Central government has declared a three member panel of interlocutors which has also been rejected by the fractured political leadership of the Valley.
At least 111 people were killed in anti-India protests in Kashmir since June 11.
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