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Interlocutor’s first day in Valley a ‘no-show’, but hopes afloat

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Kashmiri separatists, tourism industry boycott talks, but interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma claims deliberations are on.

New Delhi: With key separatist leaders and representatives from Kashmir’s tourism industry refusing to come for talks, newly-appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma’s first day in the Valley appeared to be bit of a no-show. However, sources said that a 15-member delegation, organised by the state government, met Sharma at Hari Niwas, a state guest house, in Srinagar Monday.

Sharma reached Srinagar at noon. He will be in the Valley for the next two days before heading for Jammu.

The ex-IB chief who had earlier said that he was open to talks to anyone in the Valley refused to divulge details on whom he met Monday. “Deliberations are on and I will visit Jammu to meet the governor and the chief minister,” Sharma told ThePrint.

The travel and tourism industry, seen as a major stakeholder by the Centre and the state for maintaining peace in the Valley, refused to hold any talk with Sharma. “We have decided not to engage in talks with him (Sharma). There is no point talking to him because if the Kashmir issue is not solved, tourism and economy of the state is going to suffer,” Dr Abdul Majeed, president of the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, told The Print.

The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq of Hurriyat (M) and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik reiterated their 31 October decision about boycotting talks with the government. “We will stand by our collective decision,” Yasin Malik told ThePrint.

The hospitality industry has been the worst hit due to the turmoil in the Valley for the past several years. In 2010, hotel and travel associations had reportedly submitted a joint memorandum to a group of interlocutors sent by the then UPA government but did not see any outcome.

“We do not have any mandate to speak on political issues. We know that holding talks with the interlocutor won’t yield any result,” said Ashfaq Siddiq Dug, president of Travels Agents Association of Kashmir. “We saw it in the past that nothing came out of the reports submitted by previous interlocutors.”

Another trade body, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also ruled out any engagements with Sharma.

Although there has been no formal invitation, some trade and tourism body representatives, however, confirmed that they had received calls from the divisional commissioner of Srinagar for separate meetings with Sharma. “We received calls from the DC office to meet Sharma. But we would like to stick to our decision,” said one of the members.

Sources said the state government has been trying to convince different sections of people to come for talks. Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is camping in the winter capital of Jammu, tweeted: “The hope of resolution via dialogue has been rekindled in J&K. I am optimistic that parties and organisations in J&K will not miss this opportunity to be a part of peace parleys.”

Meanwhile, the opposition National Conference said it received “no intimation” from Sharma so far. “As and when we get it, we will discuss and decide on it,” said NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattoo.

Those who have shown interest in talks include CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, Khan Sahib MLA Hakeem Yasin and former agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir. They will jointly meet Sharma Wednesday.


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