The Dialogue Man

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The Dialogue Man
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“There is difference of opinion. At times Mirwaiz had said that who the hell is Geelani. Today he is following him as his leader.’’


Asem Mohiuddin

On his second trip to Valley, New Delhi’s point man and former IB director, Dineshwar Sharma managed to meet two separatist leaders in the dead of the night despite three leaders of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik had categorically decided not to meet the interlocutor. This was one of the major breakthroughs for his Kashmir mission in breaking the deadlock.

Soon after Sharma was nominated as interlocutor, he wished to open channels of communication with all the groups including separatist leadership. However, JRL and other separatists gave cold response to the overtures of the interlocutor, instead termed it wastage of time. On its part separatist leadership has been maintaining that for resolution of any issue, India needs to talk not only with people of Kashmir but Pakistan as well.

During his first visit to Valley soon after the interlocutor was appointed, he could only meet mainstream leaders or those delegations who are close to establishment or have been managed by the government. After arriving in Kashmir, Sharma had said that he was ready to open channel of communications with separatist leadership and alienated youth.

He, however, failed to meet a single separatist leader on his first visit. During his second visit to Kashmir last month Sharma managed to break the ice and met a senior separatist leader and former All Party Hurriyat chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat. Bhat though is now denying any meeting with Sharma, he however admitted that he had met two persons on November 27 including a Kashmiri pandit and a non local.

However, as per the media reports Bhat met Sharma at his house in late night meeting and another separatist leader was also present in that meeting that lasted for more than an hour. Though much is not known what transpired between Bhat and Sharma in that meeting, however, this is the first time that New Delhi has managed to break the ice by luring few separatist leaders into any sort of dialogue initiated by the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

So far Sharma has remained tightlipped about this meeting, however, Bhat told to two national newspapers that he had never closed his doors for the dialogue at any level and was supporting any sort of dialogue for resolution of Kashmir issue. Bhat represents Muslim Conference in the Hurriyat Conference and has been a key man in the past when India and Pakistan was holding dialogue on Kashmir.

Bhat said that his party was always a pro dialogue party. ‘’I am open to dialogue but not a saleable commodity.’’

He said that India and Pakistan being nuclear powers need to sit on the table and resolve all the issues otherwise it can become doomsday for the entire region.

‘’Time has come when all the sides should sit together and hold meaningful dialogue.’’ Former Hurriyat Conference chairman even said that he is not afraid of the criticism from other separatist leaders for meeting Sharma.

“There is difference of opinion. At times Mirwaiz had said that who the hell is Geelani. Today he is following him as his leader.’’

Breaking the ranks from the separatist leadership the senior separatist leader has once again showed that he has a separate identity and it is not necessary that he could always follow the program of the joint leadership presently led by three prominent separatist leaders.

The seasoned politician Bhat used to teach Persian in college before he was sacked by the government for pro freedom activities and is considered as a moderate leader who was also close to former Pakistan president, General (retd) Pervaz Mushraff. It was Bhat who played a pivotal role in the four point formula of Mushraff which was seen by the then Pakistani leadership as only viable option for resolving Kashmir issue in the backdrop of Kargil war.

When the four point formula was being drafted by the then Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mohammad Kasuri along with the Pakistani establishment, sources say Bhat was one of the leaders who was in know of things and was optimistic that Kashmir issue will be resolved through this formula.

However, when India and Pakistan failed to achieve any breakthrough on the four points formula and Musharaf had to leave the power in Pakistan, Bhat got sidelined in the separatist camp. Even today, Bhat acknowledges that India and Pakistan had decided to resolve Kashmir issue by adopting the four point formula proposed to then Pakistani leadership.’’

In the past India was ready to accept four point formula, but some Kashmiri leaders had confronted the idea.’’ He said that unless the separatists will talk how come they could judge the sincerity of the other group. Though much is not known about the second separatist leader who met the interlocutor, however if sources are to believed the second separatist leader also belongs to Hurriyat group led by Mirwaiz.

 Reacting on the meeting of Bhat with Dinseshwar Sharma two leaders of JRL – Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that he should not have met him when it was a joint decision that separatist leaders would not hold talks with New Delhi’s point man.  

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik even said that he had met many leaders in New Delhi even the RSS in the past for resolution of the Kashmir issue, but New Delhi was never sincere in holding talks.

“Who is opposing the talks, but only talks should be held to solve the issue.’’ JRL leadership has already termed the appointment of the interlocutor as an eyewash and ploy to buy time.’’ The JRL even termed the dialogue with Sharma a futile exercise that will undermine the internationally acknowledged legitimate struggle of the people of Kashmir.

 This is not the first time when there was difference of opinion within the separatist camp. However, this has again shown that all is not well with the separatist amalgam, especially after another senior separatist leader and former JKLF commander, Javeed Mir resigned from the Hurriyat Conference.

Sources said that the reason for this could be that many leaders within the separatist camp are feeling that they have been sidelined and only three leaders who are part of JRL have say in the separatist camp and other senior leaders are not been even called for opinions.

Though, Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq so far has not dropped any hint of punishing Bhat, however, in the coming days many leaders who are close to the Geelani could demand action against Bhat and another separatist leader who met Sharma.

Even difference has emerged within the Muslim League as two leaders based in Pakistan have written a letter to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq demanding to sack Prof Abdul Gani Bhat as representative of ML in Hurriyat. Bhat has expelled both the leaders based in Pakistan blaming them for indulging in anti party activities. 

If sources are to be believed point man Sharma will again be traveling to Kashmir within few weeks. Encouraged with the meeting with two separatist leaders, Sharma will try to meet again more leaders within the separatist camp who feel they have been sidelined. Sharma during his last meeting told a group of youth that he is ready to meet any separatist leader anywhere as he wants things should move forward.

File Photo

In his last meeting Sharma also managed to meet some stone pelters and those youth who were pellet victims. The youth demanded withdrawal of their cases and putting an end to the harassment. Sharma had last time asked New Delhi to withdraw the cases of fist time offenders and as per the J&K government more than 4500 youths who are first time offenders will be benefited from this amnesty.

Even a function was organized in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town where 350 stone pelters who were first time offenders were conveyed that they have got amnesty under the scheme and they should try to use this as an opportunity to lead a normal life. Besides, top police officers, PDP legislator from Baramulla also attended the meeting that was held in Dak Banglow. The PDP top leadership is now trying to use this amnesty as a political stunt and term it as an extension of the party’s healing touch policy.

Whether, Prof Bhat has met interlocutor Sharma or not, it is however clear that he is for the fruitful dialogue, however, the only impediment is the insincerity on part of the New Delhi. From past two decades many dialogues where held, however, it never reached conclusion.  

The separatist leaders who are now shying away from dialogue have met top Indian leadership, however, every time they feel they have been deceived which has created a bad image for them back home and these leaders don’t want to repeat same.

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