Srinagar: Separatist leaders have rejected Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s invitation to meet an all-party delegation of parliamentarians who are in Kashmir on a mission to restore peace in the valley rocked by nearly two months of violence and street protests.
The separatist leaders in a joint statement said the delegation from Delhi has not “spelled out its mandate” and has no clear agenda of engagement.
The statement lashed out at Mehbooba, who had invited the separatists for talks in her capacity as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and not as the Chief Minister.
“Nobody is more aware than Mehbooba ji that the Indian war machine is on a spree to kill, maim and disfigure an entire population into complete submission for demanding freedom from India,” said the statement issued by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.
Mehbooba on Saturday evening wrote to separatists “in my capacity as the president of the Peoples Democratic Party”, requesting them “to take the lead and engage with the all-party delegation of parliamentarians”.
“This will be the start of a credible and meaningful political dialogue and resolution process to end the stalemate. Cutting across party lines and political positions, the country’s political leadership has reached out and it is for us to collectively lend it credence and credibility,” she wrote in her letter.
The separatists, who are either locked up in Srinagar prisons or in their homes, said they were not surprised with Mehbooba’s “dominant concern, as expressed in her letter, is to ‘lend credence and credibility’ to the delegation visiting Kashmir avowedly to ascertain wishes of the people.
“Everyone knows that people have been shouting ‘azadi’ on the roads for those who want to listen and writing on walls and placards for those who can see.”
National Conference president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also criticized Mehbooba for her invitation to the separatists.
Abdullah said Mehbooba should have released the separatist leaders from prison and house arrest if she was serious about talks with them.
“As Chief Minister she arrests them and as PDP President she invites them to talk and then we wonder why Kashmir burns,” Abdullah tweeted, a day after the letter of invitation was handed over to separatist leaders by policemen.
“I wonder if anyone in the PDP or BJP would like to explain why police is used as couriers” since the invitation was not from the government, Abdullah asked, as the delegation, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, arrived here for a two-day visit.
The all-party delegation met Mehbooba Mufti at the highly-guarded Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the banks of the Dal Lake. Curfew was reimposed in parts of the valley, particularly in Srinagar. All roads to the SKICC were locked down with a heavy presence of police and paramilitary troopers.
As the MPs landed in Srinagar, more violence erupted across the Kashmir Valley. Police sources said nearly 50 people were injured in various clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces.
At least 30 people were injured as security forces used shotgun pellets to disperse thousands of protesters in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. A mob of protesters later set ablaze a multi-story sprawling complex of the district administration.
The complex was inaugurated just last year and many of the district offices had not moved into the new state-of-the-art building.
The incident occurred as thousands of protesters took to the streets for a pro-freedom rally — the latest in a series of protests triggered by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
At least 74 persons, including two policemen, have been killed in the weeks of violence. More than 11,500 civilians and security forces have been injured.