Srinagar : Top Kashmiri separatist leaders on Sunday refused to talk to national opposition leaders who were part of an all-party delegation that arrived here to reach out to a restive population. While the all-party team led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was meeting the mainstream groups, five members broke away to meet the separatists. Three among them — Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav and Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja — went to meet hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani at his residence, where he is under house arrest for the last 60 days. But the Hurriyat chairman refused to even let them in and the three MPs left after waiting at his door for about ten minutes. Ever since the BJP has entered into an alliance with the BJP, the Hurriyat is feeling extremely alienated.
Outside the house, several of Geelani’s supporters massed around and angrily shouted slogans as the MPs’ cars and security vehicles went past. They chanted “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”. A disappointed Yechury later told the media that they “had come to hold talks and listen to his (Geelani’s) viewpoint”. “We can move forward (to solve the Kashmir problems) only through talks. But he didn’t open the door,” Yechury said. After their failed bid at Haiderpora, the three leaders returned to the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre where they had earlier attended a meeting of all parties with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
In 2010, when the Valley was witnessing a similar unrest, the CPI-M general secretary had succeeded in convincing Geelani to roll up his protest calendar and help restore normalcy in Kashmir. Sharad Yadav, Yechury and Raja earlier went to meet Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chief Yasin Malik at a police hub in Humhama where he is being detained. Malik met them barely for 10 minutes only to convey that there was no point in holding any talks. Also detained with Malik are three key Geelani aides.
On a separate track, Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen went to meet moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz at Chashma Shahi where a tourist hut has been converted into a sub-jail. Separatist leader Shabir Shah was also brought to the sub-jail. Mirwaiz was cold to Owaisi, saying the Hurriyat had already decided not to meet the MPs who had come with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. A disappointed Owaisi then met Shah for some 10 minutes but he too made it clear that he was in no mood for any dialogue with the MPs or the government officials who are part of the delegation from Delhi.
The separatist leaders had earlier in a statement said the delegation from Delhi has not “spelled out its mandate” and had no clear agenda of its engagement in the Valley, where normal life has been disrupted for nearly two months now. “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,” they said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the separatists rejected Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti‘s invitation to them for meeting the all-party delegation, terming such a measure as “deceitful” and insisting that it cannot be an alternative to a “transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue”. National Conference chief Omar Abdullah criticized Mufti’s efforts, saying the government should have released the separatist leaders from house arrest if she was serious about talks.
As the MPs landed in Srinagar, more violence erupted across the Kashmir Valley. Police sources said nearly 100 people were injured in clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces at various places. At least 40 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.