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Hurriyat blames Centre for Kashmir dialogue stalemate

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Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq says the Modi government lacks the “Vajpayee approach” towards Kashmir, is paying lip service about holding talks.

Srinagar: The central government has not shown any willingness to come forward and hold constructive talks on Kashmir even though it claims to support unconditional dialogue and this has led to a stalemate, separatist Hurriyat leaders have said.

While the deteriorating security situation in the troubled state could be a factor in New Delhi’s calculations, its failure to keep its word and revive the “Vajpayee approach” has also contributed to the lull, they said.

“The Government of India lacks in the Vajpayee approach, thus, it has failed in starting a dialogue on Kashmir,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, told ThePrint.

“Our joint resistance leadership, including (Hurriyat Conference leader) Syed Ali Shah Geelani and (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader) Yasin Malik, supports talks in principle, but New Delhi refuses to acknowledge that we are pro-freedom, and that’s why we demand a resolution-oriented dialogue,” he said.

Ambit of humanity vs constitution

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP had promised to revive political talks after forming an alliance government in 2015 but made little progress as the Valley has been roiled by militant violence, street protests and differences between the separatists and the central government on the framework of the talks.

The Mirwaiz recalled that Vajpayee had launched talks saying they would be held under the ambit of humanity or “insaaniyat ka daayra”, but that position had changed now. “The BJP’s stand has been that talks can only happen within the ambit of the Indian Constitution,” he said.

“The main issue the government has to address is engaging with the Kashmir problem. They must revisit the Vajpayee era where there was a proper mechanism. Right now, they are making confusing statements.”

The Mirwaiz said that the statements made by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav about holding “unconditional talks” in the Valley were “not serious”, and were aimed towards an audience outside Kashmir.

“They have not been serious about talks, and whatever they say comes out of thin air. I am not sure what dialogue with stakeholders are they talking about… They have to first acknowledge that we are pro-freedom. They are only beating around the bush,” he said.

Not with abuses, nor with bullets

Kashmir witnessed a spike in street protests and militant violence since the July 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and attempts by delegations – both government and independent – to begin a dialogue with the separatists have not succeeded.

In his Independence Day speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a fresh call for dialogue, saying the Kashmir problem won’t be solved by abuses or bullets, but by embracing Kashmiris. Rajnath Singh visited the Valley in September and said the Centre was ready to hold talks with an “open mind”, but a breakthrough has proved elusive.

On the other hand, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been conducting unprecedented raids across the Valley since June and has arrested seven people, including Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah, for allegedly funding terror activities.

The Mirwaiz, who has also come under the NIA’s scanner, called the raids a “pressure tactic”. “It has proved counterproductive. Had it been a serious issue, the NIA would not have been leaking information to the media every week,” he said.

While Yasin Malik refused to comment saying he was not ready to speak to the national media, a senior leader and close aide of Geelani said, “we have been crippled”.

“We are constantly put under house arrest. All communication channels, even with Geelani sahib, have been cut. Thus, it is unlikely that we can make any comment about holding talks with the government of India,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.

“Unless the government of India changes its approach in dealing with the Kashmir problem, nothing is going to change,” the Mirwaiz added. “They have to stop their military and security approach and handling it with an iron fist is no way.”

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