A great deal of hope was pinned on the visit of All-Party Delegation (APD) to Jammu and Kashmir to seek an end to the ongoing turbulence that has brought the border State to a standstill for the past two months. However, there was little to cheer about as the much awaited efforts from New Delhi failed to prise open the door to peace in Kashmir.
Even though Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was leading the delegation, claimed to some positive outcomes, the reality is that the APD failed to break the ice in Kashmir, and Singh’s claim appears a hollow attempt to deny ground reality.
On September 4, after touching down at the Srinagar Airport, the 26-member delegation on way to picturesque Sher-I-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) located at the banks of the famous Dal Lake witnessed the deserted streets of Srinagar. Curfew and severe restrictions were in place to abort any chances of the people trying to ‘Occupy Airport Road’, a call given by the unified pro-freedom leadership.
At the venue, a congregation of media persons was waiting for the delegation amid speculation and guesswork at the breakthrough to end the deadlock. However, as the things started to unfold, disappointment started to creep in. The delegation mostly met people and political parties who almost think along the same lines as the Government of India does and failed to hold talks with the people who hold other views.
By afternoon, apart from meeting mainstream political parties and lesser known groups and individuals affiliated with Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), no prominent organization turned up at the occasion. The civil society and business community decided not to meet the APD unless a commitment to end killings on the roads by the government forces was given.
The faces of the visibly disappointed mainstream politicians seemed to convey that things were unlikely to return to normalcy any time soon.
National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, whose party was the first to interact with the visiting MPs, told the media that the efforts like the all-party delegations had lost credibility in Kashmir due to the absence of any follow-up after previous such visits.
“The parliamentarians who have come here have a mammoth task at their hands to revive the faith in this process,” Abdullah said in a pessimistic tone.
The NC Working President said he told the delegation that such was the situation in Kashmir that his workers were pressurising him not to attend the meeting.
Following Omar was State Congress Chief G. A. Mir, who after meeting the delegation echoed a similar concern, particularly about the flawed roadmap of New Delhi to address the Kashmir problem.
“It seems that the delegation has no roadmap. They do not have anything concrete to offer,” Mir said.
Soon after, a bevy of politicians like Awami Itihaad Party delegation led by Engineer Rashid, CPI (M) delegation led by Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, Peoples Democratic Front delegation led by Hakeem Yaseen, Democratic Party Nationalist delegation led by Ghulam Hassan Mir, all expressed their displeasure after holding deliberations with APD. They were of the unanimous opinion that more is required from the Government of India to de-escalate the prevailing
It is pertinent to mention that 75 civilians have died while thousands have been injured and more than 100 maimed during the forces’ action on protesters during the current uprising that began after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
However, the biggest setback for any chance for peace to return to the Valley was yet to come. By the evening, while the delegation met mainstream sections, four members of the group broke away to meet the detained pro-freedom leadership.
CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D. Raja, JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav and RJD’s Jay Prakash Narayan – went to meet hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani at his residence in Hyderpora where he is under house arrest for the past two years, while AIMIM leader Assaduddin Owaisi went to meet moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at the Chashm-e- Shahi sub-jail where he is lodged. The group also went to meet Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yaseen Malik, who is under detention at a BSF camp in Humhama in Srinagar.
However, the efforts proved to be a futile exercise as the pro-freedom leaders refused to meet the members of the all-party delegation stating that New Delhi is not “serious” to address the real political problem of Kashmir.
At Geelani’s residence, the gate was not opened for the MPs. When they knocked at Geelani’s door, they were told that the Hurriyat (G) leader did not want to meet the delegation. Geelani’s supporters who were standing outside started anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, leaving the members no option but to return dejected.
Earlier, Geelani had proposed five points before the Government of India for starting a meaningful dialogue for resolution of Kashmir issue.
“In 2010, we gave five points to India. First, that it acknowledges the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir. Second, that armed forces are withdrawn. Third, that the AFSPA is repealed. Fourth, that a case be registered against the police, CRPF and the J-K government for the killing of youth. And fifth, that those detained in prison be released. The day India will acknowledge all these points is the day a fruitful dialogue will take place," Geelani said in a statement.
Mirwaiz also refused to hold any parleys with the delegation members. Similarly, Malik also declined the offer and told MPs that he will talk when he visits New Delhi.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury terming the incident unfortunate told Policy Pulse that they were able to meet Hurriyat leaders apart from Geelani but they had taken a collective decision to not engage in any political dialogue.
“During the 2010 agitation, we had a detailed meeting with Geelani sahib and may be the failure of a follow up was the reason that this time the hurriyat leader didn’t come forward. But, we were able to send the message to the people of Kashmir that there are people in New Delhi who are prepared for this kind of an outreach,” Yechury said.
Mehbooba Mufti had written a letter to the Pro-freedom leaders only several hours before the APD visit, urging them to meet the visiting delegates. However, it was not a formal invitation for a dialogue. She wrote her letter as President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), not as Chief Minister of the State. This created an impression that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a partner in the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, was averse to sending a formal invite to the Hurriyat from the PDP-BJP government’s Chief Minister.
At dusk, it became apparent that the efforts of the APD had yielded no results and any impact to stop the vicious cycle of violence on the ground was not forthcoming.
Next morning in a press conference before returning to New Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed the refusal of pro-freedom leaders to meet the visiting Indian parliamentarians as against ‘Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat’. However, in the same breath, Singh said the delegation members had gone to meet Hurriyat in their individual capacity and was neither approved nor disapproved by the All Party delegation.
Two days after visiting Jammu and Kashmir, the APD in New Delhi passed a unanimous resolution calling for peace and dialogue with “all stakeholders” for overcoming the ongoing uprising in Kashmir but maintained that there can be “no compromise on the issue of national sovereignty”.
On the other hand, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani without budging from his position said that he was not against the dialogue but will not participate in any "meaningless exercise" which would be held under the ambit of Indian constitution and is not aimed at solving the Kashmir issue.
With hardening of positions, the doors for a meaningful engagement on Kashmir seem to have been shut temporarily but only a political initiative of substance can break this impasse so that peace returns to the paradise on Earth.